Friday, June 06, 2008

William M'Millan - County Down Covenanter

castle.jpgFrom Galloway and the Covenanters by Alex S Morton, 1914

On 7th October 1663, the Privy Council of Scotland passed an act to prevent Presbyterian ministers from Ireland getting shelter in Scotland. There were many arrests.

A William M'Millan of Caldow (possibly a misspelling of Caldons, near Glen Trool) in the parish of Balmaclellan (near New Galloway) fled from his home and lived life as a fugitive. His family had Royal troops garrisoned in their home as a punishment, and M'Millan "...went frequently to Ireland to escape persecution, and was prevailed upon by the Presbyterian ministers of the County of Down to qualify as a minister, and was licensed to preach about the year 1673..." M'Millan was arrested on a return trip to Scotland in November 1676, and was taken to Kirkcudbright on 13th.

He was described as "ane noted keiper of field conventicles" and was held at the Tolbooth in Kirkcudbright, to be transferred to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. In fact, M'Millan was held in Dumfries for 3 years, until after the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, and was then freed. He carried on living in the open, avoiding the authorities, but was eventually again captured - this time with his wife - and taken once more to Dumfries. He refused to take the Test [this was the 1681 Test Act, passed at the King's orders by the Scottish Parliament, forcing an oath of allegiance to the established, episcopolian or Anglican church, and therefore the King as the head of that church], and was sent to Wigtown for trial. After some further threats he ended up on 18 May 1680 as a prisoner in Dunottar Castle, the Covenanter prison in Aberdeenshire (shown here).

From here there are two possible scenarios:

1) In September 1686, it seems that M'Millan may have finally broke, and took the Test under the threat of being fined 5000 Scottish merks, or about £40,000 in today's money (from The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, by Wodrow p 222), or

2) He was rounded up with other prisoners at Dunottar Castle, forced to walk 66 miles, with hands bound behind their backs, to Leith near Edinburgh, and then forced into the hold of a ship bound for America. A William M'Millan is recorded as having died at sea on the boat
(from The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, by Wodrow Bk 3 p 222)

You can read more about The Covenanters March here.