Thursday, February 28, 2008

370 Years Ago

"...On this day, Wednesday, February 28, 1638, the Covenant was first read aloud in the Greyfriars Church of Edinburgh. This was the same church where John Knox had once been taken for trial. It was already dear to the Scots, and now would be more so. Leading individuals signed the covenant on the spot.

The next day, it was taken to Tailors Hall, where the burghers of the city added their names. In subsequent days and weeks, the movement gained force as copies made their way not only throughout Scotland, but into Ireland. Everywhere, people signed..."


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

1640 - Ulster Covenanters causing bother yet again

This is a description of a scene in Scotland in early August 1640, of a Covenanter army of 20,000 men, 4,000 horse and wagon loads of artillery. The army had left Edinburgh on 31st July and was preparing to invade England - headed by Blair from Bangor and Livingstone from Killinchy!

"...along with the colours displaying the motto 'Covenant for Religion Crowne and Country,' marched resolute military chaplains, namely Alexander Henderson, Robert Blair, John Livingstone and other country pastors..."

Henderson is acknowledged as the author of Scotland's National Covenant, so once again this shows just how integral the Ulster ministers were to the whole "50 Years Struggle" from 1638 - 1688.

(quoted from The Covenanters, p349 by J King Hewison, 1908)

Thanks Graeme!

Check this out - my brother Graeme just sent it to me. This is what gospel music should be all about. Simplicity and sincerity - fantastic!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Be Prepared

It's the motto of the Scouts; it's worth bearing in mind that if you intend trying to spend time tracking down Covenanter monuments, you need to have the right boots with you. The monuments are often well off the beaten track, in the middle of fields and moors, which are good fun to squelch and skid through in mid February. Here's the evidence!

A was gutters tae the oxters and had tae change baith ma breeks and ma shuin at the side o tha road yin day! But no tae worry, A got the photos A was efter - ye can see maist o them here

Friday, February 22, 2008

Theodore Roosevelt and the Covenanters

100 years ago, the President of the USA was Theodore Roosevelt. He was made President aged just 42, following the assassination of President William McKinley - yet another President of Ulster descent whose ancestors came from Dervock in County Antrim. Roosevelt's term was from 1901 - 1909, and his mother's ancestors had come from Glenoe in County Antrim and emigrated to what were then the "American Colonies" in May 1729.

In his great epic "The Winning of the West" , Roosevelt wrote:

"It is doubtful if we have realised in the leadership of our country, the part played by that stern and virile people, the Scotch-Irish, whose predecessors taught the creed of Knox and Calvin. These Irish representatives of the Covenanters... formed the kernel of the distinctively and intensely American stock who were the pioneers of our people in their march westward, the vanguard of the army of fighting settlers... they became the vanguard of our civilization...these were the men who first declared for American independence... they were the kinsfolk of the Covenanters, they deemed it a religious duty to interpret their own Bible... for generations their whole ecclesiastical and scholastic systems have been found fundamentally democratic."

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.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

18,000 Martyrs for Jesus

This is a detail from the Covenanters memorial at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, taken last Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Hilary's Family Tree - part 1

Hilary's dad has a great family tree that one of his ancestors put together donkeys years ago. The family line is "Moneypenny of Pitmilly" in Fife, Scotland. It's about 5 miles away from St Andrews - a town which Wylie describes as the capital city of the kingdom of darkness". (Having said that, our kids like the beach there)

David Moneypenny (1512 - 1579) : the family tree says "having been declared privy to the slaughter of Cardinal Beaton (shown here) in 1546. he and his son received a pardon in 1553 from Mary Queen of Scots".

Moneypenny and Beaton were cousins, but it was Beaton who had overseen the execution of George Wishart, the second Protestant martyr of the Scottish Reformation, who was burned at the stake in St Andrews on 1st March 1546. (A memorial today marks the spot where Wishart was martyred - here are photos of the "plinth" style sign, and the cobble monogram in the road of his initials).

In revenge, on 29th May of the same year, a group of about 16 men broke into the Cardinal's chambers at the Castle of St Andrews, stabbed him twice with a dagger and twice again with a sword. They then hung his body from his window at the front of the castle for all to see. Wylie wrote "...the cardinal's corpse flung upon a dung hill, the conspirators kept possession of his castle..."

Brutal stuff indeed. Then on 4th June 1547, the French navy arrived, stormed the place, and took the castle's occupiers away to slavery. One of them was a certain John Knox.

(The moral of this story is that it might be a good idea to check out your fiancés family tree before you accidentally marry an axe murderer. That my wife is descended from one of Cardinal Beaton's assassins is either a) a great honour or b) a good reason to go to self-defence lessons)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Five Brothers of Margaret Wilson - "Martyr of the Solway"

This is a famous painting of Margaret Wilson, by John Everett Millais She was drowned in May 1685 in the rising tides of the Solway Firth, near Wigtown in south west Scotland. I've just discovered that her four older brothers - William, Robert, Samuel and John - all fled the "Killing Times" in Scotland and came to Ulster in an open boat in 1684.

- William Wilson (died 1721) married an Elizabeth McIlroy
- Robert Wilson married, and had a daughter called Margaret
- Samuel Wilson married a Martha Kirkpatrick in 1732
- John Wilson (born 1660 or 1666) brought with him an oak chair and chest, and was at Carrickfergus on 14th June 1690 to meet William of Orange (and the 15,000 troops that came with him). John was given lands at Rashee, near Ballyclare.*

* The following information was also sent to me: "..."The Wilsons were an impeccably Protestant family of the middle sort who traced their ancestry back to a John Wilson who was reputed to have arrived at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, in the suite of King William III in 1690. Wilson almost certainly arrived in Ireland earlier, and there are lots of Wilsons in the vicinity before 1690, but it was socially more superior to claim an association with William of Orange than for the family to be mere ‘Planters’." - from the biography of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, CIGS, by Keith Jeffery


Her younger brother, Thomas Wilson, (died 1734 at Penninghame, Wigtown) witnessed her martyrdom, and he left Scotland for Holland where he joined the Williamite army in Flanders. He was later stationed at Edinburgh Castle. (nb - William laid seige to the Castle from 18 March 1689 - 13 June 1689)

News of Margaret's drowning must have reached Holland, possibly via Thomas, for when William of Orange wrote his Declaration to the People of Scotland (dated 10 October 1688) William specifically mentioned barbarities such as the destroying of poor people by 'hanging, shooting, and drowning them without any form of law or respect to age and sex'.

(thanks for the information on this post are due to Willie Drennan, Jack Greenald and Gordon Lucy. See the self-published booklet "Margaret Wilson the Martyr - a Genealogical Account of the Wilson Family of Penninghame Parish" by John G Wilson of Kilwinnet. Published by House of Kilwinnet Publications, Colmonnel, Ayrshire, 1998. Visit

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Matthew Scott, Ballyhalbert, 1772

My friend Richard MacMaster (now living in Florida), emailed me this info a while back:

Belfast News Letter, October 13, 1772
"Matthew Scott of Ballyhalbert in the County of Down, intending to remove from thence, will on Tuesday the 23rd Inst., sell by Auction all his Household Furniture, Stock of Cattle, and Farming Utensils, also his Interest in a Lease, during the Life of the Revd. Peter Winder, of 17 acres and a half of Land, contiguous to the Village of Ballyhalbert."

He doesn't actually say he's going to America, but disposing of his household furniture, cattle and farming utensils would suggest he wasn't simply moving to another farm a few miles away. He wasn't going to Ballywalter for the day - he was about to go on a lifetime journey. In 1772 America was gearing up for her War of Independence, and as about 1/3 of George Washington's army were Ulstermen, maybe that's where Matthew Scott was heading too?

There was a Captain Matthew Scott in Washington's army - in the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment - and it had at least one Ulsterman in its ranks, an Alexander McCurdy


(pic above is of a soldier of the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment, Continental Line)