Ulster Presbyterians and the endurance of principle…

If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

Numbers 30:2

If you didn’t see Will Crawley’s evocative first spisode in a new three parter on the much spoken about, and little understood Ulster Presbyterians, you really should bookmark the page on iPlayer and take the time to watch it.

The timing is interesting, not least since Friday’s DigitalLunch concerned the whole business of history, storytelling and propaganda. Our special guest Hiram Morgan noted towards the start that:

“Essentially the more you dig down into a subject, looking at the documents, the original sources, you get further and further away from your own preconceptions your own present mindedness as it were.

Will’s documentary certainly had a strong sense of journey to it. He clips through more than a century of history at a fair old pace from the advent of Calvin’s Ordonnances ecclésiastiques of Geneva in the mid 1500s, through that epoch making decade a century later, to the eventual accommodation with the Presbyterians by the English throne in the decades after the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

In dialling down the James-v-William face off and pointing up the 1640s, Crawley takes us into the chaotic, dark and at times unfathomable cauldron of modern Irish political identity. Hav ing suffered casualties of up to an estimated 12,000 men, women and children, the Presbyterian Scots returned a year later this time, as Eamonn noted last night “we came with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other.”

And yet their story is one of unquellable rebellion. A pain the side of both the English Republic and the Monarchy for their unflinching fealty to principle. They had much resolve in adversity which gave way to an eventual, if uneasy, accommodation with a crown authority which had several times sold it short of it’s own highly prized values of equality before God. “But they could not be bought’ says Crawley after the granting of the Regium Donum.

Great television.  And, if history is in part at Hiram describes it, as a journey “away from your own preconceptions” this is a journey well worth undertaking…

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  • Otto

    Well deserved love-in for William on twitter last night while he was having his pizza and Shiraz party.

    I’m pretty sure that’s Rosemary Street in his promotional picture. Learning Irish and hanging around with Unitarians.
    That sort of thing used to get a man in trouble.

  • socaire

    Why bother with the Bible at all when you are coming to steal? Surely even a cursory reading would indicate that taking what doesn’t belong to you is against the word of the Lord. But then, maybe, this was the Lord’s ordained plan that they were carrying out.

  • Mick Fealty

    Will paraphrases ‘a Spanish refugee’ at 4.12 in…

    “a Gaelic population in perpetual war with the English. A Kingdom where there was neither justice nor right. A lawless country where everyone did as they pleased.”

  • Mick Fealty

    I think I’m going to suggest we have only serious comment. Provocative is fine if you are going to back it up with an argument.

  • BarneyT

    Now I have to say, I thought we were getting on to something serious there for a minute. This is a very interesting area for Ireland and it should be explored.

    In my sometimes basic way of thinking, I cant help feel that through a thorough examination of presbyterianism, we can find common ground and perhaps part of the Irish solution.

    The dominant protestant religion in NI is presbyterianism. A closer look at their relationship with the English crown might dispell some myths and trigger a new level of “republican” thinking…if at least to develop an understanding of the republicanism that emerged in the England homeland.

    We could look at their place in Ireland. Understanding the birth of Irish repubicanism for me presents an opportunity for loyalist enlightenment.

    Finally such an examination might just help us understand where presbyteriamism stands now in this moderm era and why. It might provide answers to the question, ‘why are they now so “loyal” to the crown that once tried to buckle them’

    It would be great to hear from an expert on this subject, however Presbyterianism in Ireland is not all cloaked in glory, particuarly with regard to the natives.

    But we need to look at this 500 year episode in small strokes one at a time.

  • BarneyT[1.33] I’d be surprised if the commandment about stealing got any hearing in what is a purely promotional piece and the BBC isn’t going to risk causing indigestion to their people by dwelling on the negative aspects of the history. I wonder what the ancestors ‘the independent people’ would make of their descendants clinging on to their colonial masters for the subsidy. They wouldn’t be too impressed.

  • Barnshee

    ‘the independent people’ would make of their descendants clinging on to their colonial masters for the subsidy. They wouldn’t be too impressed.”

    Without a breakdown of “who” drains what out of the subsidy I await being impressed or otherwise

    “stealing got any hearing”

    Where did those “stolen” from get the items “stolen”?

  • Mick Fealty

    Children, come on… now please… there is lots of material provided, please try to act like grown up or I’m going to have to start pruning…

  • Otto

    I’ve never really understood know why the reformation was so fervently adopted in Scotland and so rejected in Ireland. Were social structures all that different for the pre-reformation catholic Scots and the catholic Irish?

    Or was there more reformation in Ireland than we know about? Have we just mixed up “proper” Irish Presbyterians with Scots ones?

    One of my great grandparents was a Connaught Presbyterian. I don’t think Cromwell was involved though.

  • “We came with an [Munro’s] army [in the spring of 1642], we came with a conqueror, we came with a bible in one hand and a sword in the other”

    This claim may misrepresent the sequence of events. We have this from George Hill’s Macdonnells of Antrim [p59]:

    “Some time before the rebellion broke out,” says the protestant historian Carte, “it was confidently reported that Sir John Clotworthy, (36) who well knew the designs of the faction that governed the house of commons in England, had declared there in a speech, that the conversion of the papists in Ireland was only to be effected by the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other”

    Clotworthy was from Antrim and it’s fairly clear that his and similar words precipitated the rising in Ulster in October 1641:

    then the plot of destruction by an army of Scotland, and another of the malignant partie in England must be executed ; the feares of those twofold destructions, and their ardent desire to maintain that just prerogative, which might encounter and remove it, did necessitate some catholiques in the North, about the 22nd of October, 1641, to take armes in maintenance of their religion, your majesty’s rights, and the preservation of life, estate, and libertie.” [Catholic remonstrance to the king]

  • Mc Slaggart


    “I’ve never really understood know why the reformation was so fervently adopted in Scotland and so rejected in Ireland. Were social structures all that different for the pre-reformation catholic Scots and the catholic Irish?”

    Thank you for the question. I do not have the answer for you but its something I must read up on.

  • salgado


    “I’ve never really understood know why the reformation was so fervently adopted in Scotland and so rejected in Ireland. Were social structures all that different for the pre-reformation catholic Scots and the catholic Irish?”

    I read Diarmaid Macculloch’s book on the Reformation a while back – he suggested that one of the major factors for the failure of the reformation in Ireland was the availability of bibles in Irish.

    The bible wasn’t translated into Irish Gaelic until the 17th century, when the counter reformation was well under way. It was also pretty slow to appear in Scots Gaelic, but there were probably more English speakers knocking about.

  • salgado

    Also, that Ireland lacked the same sort of “clerical elite” that the church in England and Scotland had, so there wasn’t really the same leadership ready to convert and bring radical change.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Otto, as the Marxists tell us, look to the money. As in England, one of the encouragements for the Nobility and Gentry to come over to the new order was their cheap purchase of confiscated church land.

    The Church of Scotland in the early seventeenth century was essentially a national church with Calvinist doctrine, but an Episcopal structure that was similar to the Anglican Church.This was similar to the structure of the established church in the two other kingdoms. When Laud came along and tried to insist that Archbishop Spottiswoode and his episcopate began to re-claim some Church land, and, incidentally, re-introduce “the Beauty of Holiness,” the Scots nobility suddenly discovered that they were “Covenanters”! They made common cause with the discontented extreme Calvinists, signed the Covenant, and so we have the Bishop’s war, the Civil war, the Irish Confederate war and the interregnum, with the rule of a kind of Covenanter Taliban rump under “false” Argyle.

    The Episcopalian model was restored with Charles II, and the Covenanters went underground and had a few uprisings with weapons bought with collections of money from their congregations, some of it nominally raised to free white slaves in Morocco. The Episcopal model was turfed out in Scotland with James II in 1688, when the Covenanters drove the old order from St Giles’s cathedral, and from all the engines of power. The Church of Scotland effectively became a Presbyterian Church, that enforced its own form of worship with all the means that the Episcopalians had used against it. The old Episcopal church of Scotland and the catholic church both became penal churches, their congregations and priests hounded.

    In Ireland the Anglican establishment concentrated power ( and land) in the hands of a few for several centuries, and both Catholic and Presbyterian were almost equally disadvantaged. It was in no ones interest to convert the mass of the population, who made equally good helots with either faith. But the Catholic gentry were systematically dispossessed, and the Calvinists discouraged.

    Cromwell was most certainly not involved in the development of Presbyterianism in Connaught, although he had a “Hell or Connaught” plan to dispossess the Presbyterians as well as the Catholics during the interregnum. He hated Presbyterians like poison, almost as much as he hated Catholics and what he considered “cripto-catholics” such as the Anglicans.

    “Unflinching fealty to principle,” is unfortunately rather a “cartoon history” quote of the sort that the media (I speak from thirty years experience in the media, at every level) excel in. The Calvinists could be fearsomely flexible, when the need arose. It is an eye opener to read some of the strange logical twists in Book such as “Presbyterian Loyalty.”

    Nevin, Clotworthy was an extreme Calvinist, and his family offer a lovely example of this contingent approach to their “unflinching fealty to principle.” During the Restoration, poor Ormonde had to remind Clotworthy’s son in law and successor that his chaplain had once been Oliver Cromwell’s chaplain. Masserine soon decided to take the “test” (take Anglican communion) and conform when it was hinted that this might discourage the King’s favour!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sorry, should read “a book such as the Belfast printed “Presbyterian Loyalty” (1713) by the Rev. James Kirkpatrick.”

  • Otto

    Thanks people.

    I’m almost always prone to the Marxist analysis Sean, (although I go for the idea of an evolving society not revolutionary change). It’s clean and I’m a simple soul. But how come a couple of awkward buggers (I’m not sure if they were a church elite Salgado) managed to bring the reformation to somewhere as bleak as Iceland? Was there church property to be had? There must have been some thirst in the general populace.

    Applying the Marxist thing in reverse – could there have been potential financial benefit amongst the Irish nobility in preventing reformation taking hold – maintaining alliances with the continent or the favour of Catholic English Kings?

    I still think there might be some mileage in the idea that there was more reformation than we might usually assume in Ireland but everyone got jumbled up.

    It suits my prejudice 🙂

    Someone should make a telly program about it.

  • Here’s an insight in Ian McBride’s “Ulster Presbyterians and Irish Radicalism” that might not feature in Will’s study:

    Anglican clergymen frequently commented on the tight discipline and organisation of the Kirk: William King claimed that Ulster Presbyterians were ‘under an absolute slavery’ to their ministers and elders.” Those minute-books which still survive certainly attest to their vigour: hundreds of sabbath-breakers, adulterers, fornicators, bigamists, drunks, thieves, dishonest businessmen, and slanderers were forced to repent their ways. In addition the session managed the financial affairs of the congregation, maintained a school if it was able, and dispensed charity to the poor.”

    The minister, being merely primus inter pares – first amongst equals – was subject to this discipline too.

  • Seaan, I recall pointing out to a member of the Trail family of Ballylough the number of clergy on the family tree. He said that the denomination they represented – Episcopalian and Presbyterian – depended on how the political wind was blowing 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    Short answer: we were too busying fighting a long cultural and physical warfare with the English to bother with religion.

    Longer answer is that I think language undoubtedly helped to kill the contagion: which I think is a fair word to use for an idea that went through Europe like a forest fire. The first places in England it took hold was Kent, literally first landfall from it’s European birthplace.

    Of course the material aspects of it are relevant, but in Germany it was the prince’s investment in the printed works and the bolstering of their independence from the Emperor that brought them the major ROI on their money.

    I’d not lose sight of the fact that the reformation and the renaissance ran almost concurrently. There was an intellectual tumult across the continent and both had their related but separate expressions in both England, and especially Scotland.

    They depended on large cities and city states for its propagation. As in fact was the counter Reformation which allowed the Catholic church to claw back significant ground in France, Switzerland, Germany and the Spanish Lowlands.

    For much of this, Ireland sat apart with most of its nobility riven with small internecine struggles and long, and ultimately losing cultural warfare against the English. And we barely had any cities of any size outside Dublin.

    Religion was not the main significator of political difference until the 1640s which began with the slaughter of the Scots settlers in 1641. That’s 120 years after the reformation began. Presbyterianism’s re-entry in 1642 with sword and bible in either hand probably sealing its alienation from any significant part in popular Irish religious life.

    To use modern parlance, the reformed religions relied on ‘pull’ marketing more than ‘push’… The lines in European religion were already firmly set (and most religious wars over) by the time they set their mind to trying to evangelise their Irish fellow citizens a hundred years later.

  • “Having suffered casualties of up to an estimated 12,000 men, women and children, the Presbyterian Scots returned a year later this time”

    Is this figure not an estimate of the number of Protestants who perished? Some Scots will have left, others withstood siege in places like Coleraine and Ballintoy and new ones will have arrived. Here’s a link to accounts by some of the survivors.

  • Mick Fealty

    Take it up with Will Nev, I was ‘quoting’ from the programme…

  • David Crookes

    Otto, here’s a book that is still worth reading: The Conversion of Iceland: A Survey (Text series: Viking Society for Northern Research).

    Seann, much enjoyed your posting of 3.12 pm. Let me fire two questions at you.

    1. Is conditional acceptance of the monarch and the law more a Presbyterian than an Episcopalian thing?

    2. How Presbyterian and how Episcopalian was the first Stormont parliament? Wasn’t there something about a Presbyterian college?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh yes, Nevin, very much the “Vicar of Bray.” When I was researching my book on the civil war of 1688/9 I found an interesting Restoration version of “The Vicar of Bray” which I may have alok at later as it features the Covenanters rather more prominantly.

    I was told as a boy that an ancestor of mine (not an Ó Néill) when he was the Bishop of Glasgow was compelled to send one of these “sabbath-breakers, adulterers, fornicators, bigamists, drunks, thieves” to County Antrim. The miscreant became the first “Presbyterian” minister of saintly Ballycarry.

  • Seaan, Brice and Spottiswoode and the inconvenient primus inter pares – so much better to be a friend of the King than the man in the pew.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello David, off the top of my head (and sometimes I am wrong) I think that the make-up of the 1922 parliament was probably on balance slightly more Episcopalian. It was heavy with the Fermanagh “Mafia” from the last Big Houses. But I would really, really would have to check this out properly.

    It was very much a last hurrah of the old ascendancy ideal, as many of the up and coming elite of Belfast had become Episcopalian as their credit rose in the little world of our province. F.J. Bigger’s father was just such a conversion, even though his one time Volunteer father David Bigger of “The Trench” Mallusk felt it shameful to leave the Presbyterianism the family had always espoused. Frank himself followed his mother into her Oxford movement enthusiasms.

    Certainly “conditional acceptance of the monarch and the law” has historically been “more a Presbyterian than an Episcopalian thing,” although the high tide of non-resistance really ended when the Dutchman was conspicuously offered a throne by a very human, (and conspicuously corrupt) Parliament, rather than by the God, who, as his uncle had (perfectly honestly, I think) believed had appointed him to his high calling. James II believed that his own souls eternal salvation depended on how honestly and justly he dealt with his subjects, the Prince of Orange knew that his power base depended on how he dealt with Parliament.

    Sadly, many of the Covenanters throughout the seventeenth century used the saw “No King but King Jesus” to bolster their own powers in much the spirit that our respected former First Minister used the accusation that those Wee Frees opposing him were inspired in their revolt by Satan.

    I’m afraid that my years in the media have made me uncomfortable with most documentaries. I think this is similar to the reason that no butcher eats his own sausages. Having made them he is unwilling to eat what he knows has gone into them. I remember at a meeting recently about one of these “Ulster Scots” film fund projects, William Crawley’s name came up as a possible presenter, “given his popularity and high profile.” But it was the mention of his intellectual qualifications that had me rolling on the floor……

  • David Crookes

    Many thanks for those five paragraphs, Seaan. Your fourth paragraph reminded me of the passage in John Buchan’s ‘Witch-Wood’ in which Montrose talks to a young minister.

    “You are a scholar, and you are young, and you are full of the ardour of your calling. This parish is fortunate in its minister, and I would that all Scotland were as happily served. What is it that you and I seek alike? A pure doctrine and a liberated Kirk? Is there no more?”

    “I seek above all things to bring men and women to God’s mercy-seat.”

    “And I say Amen. That is more than any disputation about the forms of Presbytery. But you seek also, or I am mightily mistook in you, the freedom and well-being of this land of ours — that our Israel may have peace and prosperity in her borders.”

    “If the first be won, all the rest will be added unto us.”

    “Doubtless. But only if the first be truly won — if the Kirk attend to the work of salvation and does not expend her toil in barren fields. Her sovereign must be King Jesus. Take heed that instead it be not King Covenant.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah Neven, being a friend of the king does not always put a man entirely on the wrong side of an arguement. Bryce effectivly delivered himself into his enemys hands. I believe that the evidence against him was pretty strong, and that the “adultery” was with a number of his congregation, but I’d have to check in my 1650 copy of Spottiswoode’s “The History of the Church of Scotland” to make sure.

    But I doubt if this will be aired on Crawley’s programme.

  • RyanAdams

    @danielsmoran …

    “I wonder what the ancestors ‘the independent people’ would make of their descendants clinging on to their colonial masters for the subsidy. They wouldn’t be too impressed.”

    No no no Gerry said there is no subsidy, its all an illusion constructed by the British to keep usuns onboard with the master plan. And we all know Gerry always tells the truth.

  • Rory Carr

    If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. Numbers 30:2

    But the Lord, Jesus the Christ said this:

    33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

    34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:

    35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

    36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

    37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

    Matthew 5:33-38 (King James Version)

    But then I guess they might not have got that far, or having got that far, decided that it did not suit their purpose and so returned to that which more conveniently did.

  • RyanAdams[7.51] I stopped paying any attention to GA a long time ago.[at the time of the broadcasting ban when he was someone else].

  • PaddyReilly

    The Reformation in Scotland occurred earlier than in England (or Ireland) and had different effects. The religious element of the Kirk organisation was sidelined and practical matters were seen to: schools were organised and all children sent to them, with the result that Scots have in the main been literate since the 16th Century. There were also Universities and many attended without needing to be from the landed gentry, as they would in England. Later on ministers started to study medicine as well as theology, so they could provide a free health service for their congregation. Under such circumstances religious reform was very popular in the greater part of Scotland.

    In England the confiscation of Church property was conducted mainly for the benefit of the king. He also handed out Abbeys and Priories to various of his followers, who were in the forefront of the anti-Catholic movement ever after.

    The Irish reformation followed English rules, except that Ireland being a semi-conquered country could not expect to reap any benefits from the redistribution. Also the Irish believed they could induce the Spanish to protect their interests against the English, and very quickly adopted Counter-reformation Catholicism in conformity with Spain.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks for printing out those two passages, Rory. The Christian gospel when it is accepted involves a war on self-importance, as for example in the matter of ‘communication’, which you bring up here: but politicized religion is all about self-importance.

    Your last sentence is acute. When you confront a votary of politicized religion with an inconvenient tenet from the creed which he professes, he tends to react in one of three ways.

    1. Yes, that is the ideal, but we have to live in the real world.

    2. Yes, that was then, but things are different today.

    3. I don’t care what the Bible says, because I’m going to do what I want anyway.

    If you have a moment, read Romans 13 and I Corinthians 13. See if you can find anywhere in either chapter a justification for defying a determination of the parades commission.

    Often what people call their religious ‘principles’ are bound up with bygone days of yore, and not with the documents of their faith.

    The people who are always going on about their ‘principles’ tend not to be much troubled with humility. Some political ‘priniciples’ come from the conceit of a group and its members.

    Thanks again, Rory.

  • A short series like this is unable to pick up many of the nuances or bring clarity to existing misunderstandings. Some folks appear to believe that if they’re Presbyterian then some, if not all, of their ancestors came from Scotland at the beginning of the 17th century. I often come across yarns about the arrival of three brothers but this may derive from the three names on a lease.

    Very few branches of family trees can be extended back before 1800 because of the paucity of official records. By chance, I can link in to a tree of the Stewarts of Ballintoy and their estimated date of arrival from Bute is around 1560. It’s quite likely that other families arrived from Bute as part of the entourage.

    A large majority of my ancestors have names which derive from Gaelic forms so some may have come from Scotland and others may have always been in Ireland; in the past two centuries they nearly all appear to have been affiliated to various strands of Presbyterianism.

    George Hill refers to a group who migrated from Kintyre to north Antrim and were welcomed there by the local Macdonnell landlord; these Scottish Macdonnells acquired property in the Glens by marriage in 1399:

    In 1607, sir James Macdonnell, the son and heir of the old chieftain Angus, escaped from prison, and his appearance among the clans was the signal for another attempt on the part of the Macdonnells to wrest their extensive lands from the Campbells. The new insurrection was initiated by Angus seizing his hereditary district of Cantire, and expelling the settlers, who indeed did not wait to be expelled. Fortunately for them, better lands awaited them on the Antrim coast, and many of them made their way with their cattle and goods across the channel. Sir Randal Macdonnell received them, presbyterians though they were, and these people were the more welcome no doubt, because of their bringing with them the means of stocking their farms, In this way came many Lowland settlers to the Antrim estates, who were literally driven thither by the circumstances above-mentioned, and who, otherwise, might never have dreamed of leaving the opposite shore. Hill, Macdonnells of Antrim p207. [available online]

  • “The Church of Scotland effectively became a Presbyterian Church, that enforced its own form of worship with all the means that the Episcopalians had used against it.”

    Seann, you’ve not mentioned The Killing Times. The defeat of James VII and II may have been seen by some Presbyterians as more important than the win by William III. The echoes may still have been felt during the Home Rule era through stories passed down in families.

  • anne warren

    Nevin wrote:
    “Very few branches of family trees can be extended back before 1800 because of the paucity of official records. By chance, I can link in to a tree of the Stewarts of Ballintoy and their estimated date of arrival from Bute is around 1560. It’s quite likely that other families arrived from Bute as part of the entourage”.

    I could well descend from one of those other families! A very elderly relative, recently deceased, always claimed our family had come from Bute in the 1580s.

    Here’s just a little anecdotal evidence to support your post

    Years ago I bought a pleated skirt for Christmas – white background with black, green and red plaid.
    “Christmas colours” I thought.
    I wore it when I visited him.
    Surprised him greatly. I would have said he was taken aback.
    He said it was dress Stuart but admitted I had the right to wear it as we were descended from a branch of the clan.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear, Nevin, where does one begin with “The Killing Times.”

    The Covenanters of this period seem to me to be driven by a fanatic, almost irrational hatred of Catholicism and the Stuarts. I have the image of Claverhouse sitting up half the night with a captured Whig rebel, a sole breadwinner, begging him to drink the King’s health and to satisfy the requirements, rather than sending him to Edinburgh and the gallows. The term “Taliban” always jumps to my mind in all of this. An ancestor of mine was a friend of Knox, and I can almost love the clean honesty of Presbyterian worship, but these irredentist Covenanters of the 1670/80s, ideological fanatics craving martyrdom for an essentially political cause, very much the sort of contingent “Christians” David Crookes describes above.

    James as Duke of York was sent to Scotland as a reconciler, surprisingly, amongst other reasons. He was known, before all the Whig/Dutchman propaganda of 1688 as a bluff straightforward soldier, whose honesty would not let him dissemble his Catholicism. In deep shock at the betrayals of those he had felt to be friends, during the year in Ireland, his personal letters repeat endlessly, “I will have no test, but that of loyalty” i.e.: no need to conform to any one creed, simply the loyalty of Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian to their King. What we now call religious tolerance. Naive, perhaps, but extremely moving, when one handles these manuscripts, and senses the good, decent man who wrote them.

    And yes, the sort of people who simply wanted him gone, the Whigs (Wharton: “King Ninny and his suppositious son”) their heads running with the propaganda of two generations of carefully nurtured hatred would have thought his defeat and degradation “more important than the win by William.”

  • “What we now call religious tolerance. Naive, perhaps, but extremely moving, when one handles these manuscripts, and senses the good, decent man who wrote them.”

    Seaan, the Abjuration Oath and the on-the-spot executions, in association with John Graham of Claverhouse, paint a very different story, a story with similarities to the Wars of the Three Realms a generation earlier. Wild and ruthless times.

  • Gopher

    I will give the show 5/10. It played to the galleries as one would expect. At times during the 17th Century (a lot of the time) Presbyterian behaviour was akin to a Monty Python sketch. I also laughed when Cromwell gets his catch all bad guy role but the programme neglects to mention the Scots Presbyterian’s sold Charles to Parliament (very decent of them). Its basically a feel good religious show not a serious history.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah, Nevin, I have usually had such a pleasure in reading your postings, that I grieve at having to ask you to think again, and more deeply. Please stop believing the propaganda about the poor suffering Covenanters and have a careful look at the manuscripts of the period.

    Alas, Scott and “Old Mortality” have a lot to answer for. The myth of the killing times was created after 1688 by the triumphant Presbyterian party and was pumped up with liberal doses of intense sentimentality in the nineteenth century. Modern scholarship, especially with the great wave of Jacobite studies that has been encouraged by Evelyn Crookshank’s groundbreaking work, has painted a very, very different picture. The Royal requirements were to save all who would be saved by taking the oath or even drinking the king’s health. Scotland was far from rallying behind the Pentland rebellion, or the “Taliban” style activities of Peden and Renwick, with their call for open murder of Stuart loyalists and armed rebellion. And remember that the Killing times were started by the murder by Covenanters of James Sharp, who was brutally shot and stabbed to death as he sat beside his daughter Isobel in his coach. The lengths the Victorian sentimentalists go to “excuse” this make amusing reading, if you have a rather dark sense of humour.

    Claverhouse gets a very bad name among the “Saints” because of his unwavering loyalty to Charles and James but a careful reading of the facts dispels most of these folklore stories from Ayrshire.

    Now, about the Abjuration Act of 1662 was a formal rejection of the National Covenant of 1638 and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. The Act required all persons taking public office under the crown to take an oath of abjuration not to take arms against the king, and rejecting the Covenants. So you could not be employed by the King and in rebellion against him. Ho humm….
    An extension of the oath required in the light of the Renwick and Peden disturbances actually ran:

    “I A, B. doe hereby abhorr, renunce and disoune, in presence of the Almighty God, the pretendit Declaratione of Warr lately affixed at severall paroch churches in so far as it declares a warr against his sacred Majestie and asserts that it is laufull to kill such as serve his Majestie in church, state, army or countrey, or such as act against the authors of the said pretended declarations now shewne to me. And I doe hereby utterly renunce and disoune the villanous authors thereof who did (as they call it) statut and ordaine the same, and what is therein mentioned, and I swear I shall never assist the authors of the said pretended declarations or ther emissaries or adherents in any poynts of punishing, killing and makeing of warr any manner of way as I shall answear to God.”

    These are political, rather than religious oaths. I suspect that David Crookes, who so ably attempts to separate that purely political from the truly spiritual on this and other threads, would find nothing in these oaths to offend a religious, as opposed to a political, Presbyterian.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Editing these long replies before the connection drops often leads to some very starnge paragraphs. I aeant to say:

    “Now, the Abjuration Act of 1662 was a formal rejection of the National Covenant of 1638 and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. The Act required all persons taking public office under the crown to take an oath of abjuration declaring they would not to take arms against the king, and would reject the Covenants. So you could not be employed by the King and in rebellion against him. Ho humm….”

    Mick, I must really say “sorry” for these long, seemingly endless replies, but people drop simple phrases such as “the Killing Times” in and there is no short answer.

  • Gopher

    Are you not mistaking religion and politics there Seean , were not our friends the Presbyterians cornered. They had to be re-ordained, accept the common prayer book, accept canonical obedience, “abjure” the covenant and then promise not to rebel against the crown. The Church party put their heads in the noose and the presbyterians just like every other 17th century religion except more so obliged.

  • “I must really say “sorry” for these long, seemingly endless replies”

    Seaan, you really should be saying sorry for the important bit you left out: those who refused to take the oath were shot on the spot. One of the more gruesome episodes was the sentence placed on the two young women and the dismissal of its postponement:

    “tied to palisades fixed in the sand, within the floodmark of the sea, and there to stand till the flood o’erflowed them”

    The Royal party did not have clean hands and its ruthless actions would have been well known just across the sea in Ireland.

    “I grieve at having to ask you to think again, and more deeply”

    Now that’s just over-egging it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Neven, I’m really sorry if you feel I’m over-egging it! Really, as I truly value all the effort you put in against Hanna’s Golf Course housing development and Alex’s bizarre folly of a decision, to give just one instance of your usually excellent postings, but again sadly, I must say that you are very, very wrong here.

    You mention “one of the more gruesome episodes was the sentence placed on the two young women” and while this still features as local folklore in Ayrshire, even the article you link to on Wikipedia mentions that it was first put down in print “20 years” after the possible event. And that it has been considered as myth for some time, which really is the current academic conclusion. This story was first written down in the full flush of the Presbyterian victory, when the Episcopal clergy and laity were suffering under Penal laws and persecution themselves, and were in no position to reply. Incidentally, the Earl of Antrim was offering a few of these exiled clergy livings up your way.

    But a great deal of propaganda for the Presbyterian Kirk Triumphant was being written in the 1690s and 1700s and I have had the misfortune of having to wade through much of it, news-sheets, contemporary books and manuscript, when I researched a book on the period. The field conventicles of the period were really political rallies, with armed guards, who were often killed in action against Royal troops sent to disperse such meetings. Such Conventicles took place throughout Antrim and Down also, usually unmolested, and great sums of money were collected for arms for the Scots insurgents. Think Taliban when you read these accounts, not the truly devout Presbyterians. The re-iteration of the innocence of the “sufferers” is a ploy that frequently discloses something quite different when you go to source.

    I would think of the first site you link to as a modern “propaganda” site where the marketing doctrine of colourful claim has been placed well above careful scholarship. After all, it is aimed at tourists, not academics, and tourists want rich flavours. The two books cited as sources for the piece actually employ some of the Victorian “sentimental” texts I spoke of above as sources. Simply because a thing is in print, it does not guarantee it to be true, that is why we return to primary sources if we really want to interrogate the past. The Wikipedia site itself needs some serious revision to reflect serious contemporary scholarship on the Margaret Wilson myth. I’ll attempt something perhaps when I have the time, so thank you for drawing may attention to it.

    So I make no apology whatsoever for attempting to set the record straight on a very emotive issue whose wilful distortion has the power to make decent people feel profoundly aggrieved. Decent people who, had they lived at the time would have shunned these violent terrorists like poison.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher, yes, the Church party behaved appallingly, but nowhere near as badly as the Kirk Triumphant of the 1640/50s.

    Both sides were tyrannical when they had the other cornered, and I make no apology for bigotry. Its just that the picturing of innocent Covenanters suffering persecution for religion alone is a gross distortion.

    But serious, in depth, primary source research has brought me to believe that James VII and II was attempting to right much of this against fanatical opposition from all quarters. Notably, the Society of Friends supported him through thick and thin. As a small cohesive group they’d experienced and so had understood his “I will have no test but that of Loyalty.”

  • “And that it has been considered as myth for some time, which really is the current academic conclusion.”

    Can you provide some evidence for this claim, Seaan? Your explanation so far lacks any substance and appears to be little more than a deluge of propaganda.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Neven, I’m sorry that I’ve made you enraged enough to call my comments propaganda. I suppose its because I questioned your sources of proof, and their sources of proof.

    Now, a little of the detail you ask for, the SOLE source for this Wigtown Drowning story, as for so much material on the “Martyrs” of the “Killing Times” is Robert Wodrow’s 1721 book “The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution”. This was written 36 years after the event by a man who was six years old when the Wigtown drownings were supposed to have taken place. No reasonable historian of any persuasion would accept Wodrow’s material as anything other than triumphalist propaganda, without some very strong corroboration from primary sources. And please note, even though you will find Wodrow’s stories re-told endlessly in the nineteenth century Presbyterian martyrologies, this is repetition, not corroboration. The rule is you assess material written at the time very carefully, and seriously interrogate material written even a few years after if it is a sole source for historical information.

    The only actual official documentation I know of from the time is the Privy council’s recommendation not to proceed with the execution until the King had adjudicated the decision, effectively a reprieve for the two women. If Greirson the judicial authority at Wigtown carried out the execution of the two women after this document was issued then he was acting most illegally, as he did not possess the power of independent execution over the women, or even of sentencing to execution, which is why his decision had been placed before the Edinburgh Privy council. The current academic conclusion is that the story is “tantalizingly short of hard evidence.” I quote this from Magnus Linklater and Christian Hesketh’s book on Claverhouse, where there is an account that raises some of these irregularities as they occur in Covenanter sources. I’m afraid it is all I have to hand without actually driving to the McClay library.

    And a little more about the careful presentation of historical conclusions, this takes much argument when something is as ingrained in the popular imagination as this story is, and that is why I, and others, write books on these things. This is not the place, nor does it have the space, to present such material, which really cannot be done in sound bites. As I said, please return to the primary sources yourself, and read with a view of discovering the truth rather than finding snippets from romantic histories to support pre-formed opinions. And please, I beg you, do not present links to tourist websites in an attempt to give some spurious authority to your postings.

    And, if I believed that these two women had been barbarously executed in this way, I would decry the atrocity as loudly as yourself. Please read my comments to Gopher. But please take the trouble to find out the facts before insisting on the truth of these emotive issues whose wilful distortion has the power to make decent people feel profoundly aggrieved.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Neven, I was remisss enough not to answer your request about information on the “on the spot executions” supposedly carried out by Graham of Claverhouse. Of course Whig propagandists such as the contemporary fiction writer Daniel Defoe of “Robinson Crusoe” fame attributed numerious executions to Claverhouse, but only John Brown, Andrew Hislop and Matthew McIlraith are the three Claverhouse “atrocities” modern historians have not completely dismissed.

    Brown, who swore he knew of no king, had bullets and match (saltpetre cord for matchlock muskets) in his house, an underground shelter with swords and pistols and shiefs of treasonable papers. He was the one man verifiably shot on Claverhouses orders, I agree. Claverhouse records the execution in a letter where he asks for mercy for the man’s son, good primary source material. Brown had been one of the very few insurgents exempted from indemnity. He had already been pardoned and released several times before, and his continual return to violence had marked him as a highly dangerious man who would not cease rebellion while there was a breath in his body. His particular execution on capture had been stripulated in general orders. Although Clavers was “only obeying orders” this is no excuse. But I must note that the account on the link site you offered us is from Wodrow’s colourful version complied some 36 years later. No modern historian of repute now credits the details of the execution as given there. This is just one of the pitfalls of using the internet citations as “proof” in a posting.

    Hislop was handed over to the Laird of Westerhall, the magistrate, who ordered his execution. Claverhouse disagreed, “ This poor man’s blood be on your head Westerhaw, I am free of it.” The magistrate still used Claverhouse’s troopers to execute the poor man.

    McIlrath has the words “By Bloody Clavers I fell” on his tombstone at Clonmonell. There is no futher evidence of any sort.

    These were terrible times, but it was not a case of black hat/white hat. Such an interpretation does no one credit. It is because the perception of these events is so very one sided that I presented unfamiliar material to provoke people to review their preconceptions. My old History teacher, a Bandon Protestant, said we Irish of Ulster understood the seventeenth century because so many in the province were still living in that century. The “Killing Times” are not dead history and a failure to fully interogate these stories can lead to some terrible passions in the present, as your reaction to my postings show. And we have only to consider the pre-Chuckle Brothers Rev. Ian’s use of these events to see where all this may lead.

  • Kensei

    A better question: why did the Reformation in England and Scotland succeed? Protestant ideals definitely had genuine popular appeal, but it’s not like Catholicism didn’t have significant appeal itself – feast days and pilgrimages and the rest are woven fairly deeply into the fabric of life.

    Both Scotland and England have strong states, And reasonably feudal, hierarchical, centralized states at that. The King says that the monasteries are to be dissolved, and it is done within four years, with elite sentiment bought and any rebellions crushed. The King says that there is to a Bible in every parish, a new prayer book or all trapping of Catholic worship are to be removed and it is done. Even with that there are still significant numbers of Catholics, especially in rural areas, in Elizabethian England. There’s always conservatism and the hope things will revert. It’s Elizabeth’s longevity, proto nationalism in Engalnd and the fact that it’s essentially a police state that cements the Reformation there.

    Scotland? The Lords of the Congregation take control of Parliament and can quickly put in place their own minsters. Eventually they can get enough control to impact schools, universities. James VI was a centralising monarchy.

    Ireland doesn’t have a state. As Mick points out, it doesn’t have a unified nobility, less a King or Parliament. Nevermind it’s a hundred years before people bother turning out a Gaelic Bible. It’s a hundred years before you have consolidated rule in Ireland where you can even think of trying to do all the things they did in Britain form the start. Which they do, but now it is being imposed by a foreign power rather than its own elites and it is a badge of resistance. Plus it’s unwound another hundred years and you have the general religious chaos as a result.

    A dozen reasons and more for Protestant ideas spreading. But if you want to talk about The Reformation in terms of places becoming a “Protestant country”, I find it hard to see past the boring logistics of it all, rather than any more romantic or enlightened notions.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Kensei, for a really helpful post that poses a real question: “A better question: why did the Reformation in England and Scotland succeed?”

    You offer one of the key answers yourself: “the fact that it’s essentially a police state that cements the Reformation.” I was quite shocked to find just how very important this issue was in defining the course of events in the establishment of religious reform in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Elizabeth had an effective secret service run by Walsingham, and when he was firmly in power Cromwell established a similar system of surveillance and religious policing to deal with Anglican and radical dissidents. Go to Wikipedia and search for “John Thurloe” for this.

    The Covenanters did not require a similar secret police because the iron grip of their elders on local congregations carried out the same function. James II & VIIs big mistake was to attempt to rule without the services of these people who sold their skills to the Dutchman, and the network of plotters who had followed Shaftsbury to Holland. Sir John Wildman, a republican and an old Thurloe hand became William’s “Post Master General” or spymaster. Ironically, he was discovered to be organising a Republican plot against William the following year.

    When I was a child and my Stalinist uncle was attempting to explain the late Roman Republic, he said that if a Roman noble made no headway with his own class he turned to the Plebeians as a power base. This is a simplification, but it explains something very important about the Covenanter and Whig revolutions and an awful lot about how the religious and communal instincts in Scotland and England were systematically abused over these two centuries for quite ordinary political interests. Not the entire story of the growth of Protestantism, but this is the rather humiliating part that is usually suppressed because of the damage it inflicts on the amour propre of the modern Protestant community.

    And, perhaps, because it flags similar cynical manipulation in the present day, although this emotional manipulation is usually on purely political grounds (“Heroic Soviets” or “free elections”) and Norn Iron is perhaps the only place that the politics of the seventeenth century can still find something of a mass audience.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The “these people” in my third paragraph were the old Thurloe secret police, whom James had dismissed, rather than the Presbyterian elders mentioned inthe previous sentence. In fact, James did attempt to include open minded Presbyterians in his new, open system of government, as a look at Belfast’s town council in 1688 shows, where Anglicans, who previously monopolised the council have been joined by Presbyterian and Catholic aldermen. A number of liberals such as Pottinger welcomed this, but the “political” Presbyterians refused to sit with Catholics even then.

  • Gopher

    So to paraphrase Seaan without continual state oppression the reformation would not have been maintained in England and Scotland. The Civil War was fought by the common people on behalf of the elite for ordinary political ideals, The presbyterians (and yes I have mentioned they were as mad as hatters) were not persecuted by Charles II, and James II was a really nice bloke and those pesky Whigs never mind embelishing it made the whole narrative up

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher, humour me for a few minutes. Just feed these ideas into what you’ve been indoctrinated with and see what really comes up. These things I’m describing should qualify, rather than supercede everything you know now.

    And yes, “James II was a really nice bloke and those pesky Whigs never mind embelishing it made the whole narrative up.” Try a bit of primary source raeding with an open mind and see what comes up. As I said above, no Dunhill “white hat black hat,” except for James! And to rather paraphrase what someone else said in another context “Sir, I have read the primary sources you (I imagine) have not!”

  • “Neven, I’m sorry that I’ve made you enraged enough to call my comments propaganda.”

    Seaan, you really have blown your cover now; first you tried the ‘damned with faint praise’ tactic, now it’s the ‘enraged’ one 😉

    The ‘myth’ to which you refer appears in an illustration and in a short comment two years after the event.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, you really should not have bothered to look out Shields’ Propaganda tract. For any professional historian the only “safe” document is still the reprieve. The reprieve is a formal, legal document, as against Shields’ Tract, which is generally recognised as propaganda prepared by someone who was encountering a story at third or fourth hand. All the tract may actually “prove” is that the “myth” of drowning was taking form in 1687, and even your journalistic source describes Shields’ version of the story as “vague.”

    Significantly, the only contemporary document that refers a sentence of this nature and to Wigtown is the reprieve, which annuls the sentence of death. Even you must be able to see that the threat of drowning, a medieval Scots punishment specially for women convicted of treason which had just been struck from legal practice a few months earlier in January 1685, if it were worked up into a story of an “actual” drowning is so powerful a propaganda image, that being a little “loose” with the truth must have been irresistible to any committed opponent of the Stuarts. The very same rules apply in the seventeenth century as today, politicians and their spin-doctors are sparing with the truth, when myths work in their interest.

    Of Shields, the article claims, “in 1687 he was a ‘preacher’ or candidate for ordination who belonged to the radical Cameronian faction”, i.e.: he was committed to the contemporary equivalent of the Taliban, simple as that. His tracts are generally recognised as propaganda productions that must be corroborated by some firm believable evidence before they are given any weight. I had dismissed him as any sort of source, and only referred to Wodrow’s story because Wodrow offers the first text to actually speak of an atrocity at Wigtown, howbeit it was written 36 years after the event. It is obvious to anyone reading Shields’ text in full that he has only heard of the sentence, assumed that it was carried out (perhaps disingenuously) and used it in a political tract to inflame passions against the king.

    It might interest you to know that Defoe and Shields both attribute scores of killings to Claverhouse, and that, if they were correct, Clavers was drowning these ladies at the exact same moment as he was many miles away shooting Brown, as I described above.

    Simple fact, the atrocities are highly suspect. Now please think logically: You were not there, neither was I, so while I cannot finally say that they did not happen, neither can you say with incontrovertible proof that the drowning did. As I said above, the current academic conclusion is that the story as it has come down to us is “tantalizingly short of hard evidence,” note “hard” evidence. Anyone encountering the law, who is unfamiliar with it, can become confused at the issues of proof that come up in court. History is similar. You are to be excused for not understanding that the links you present offer texts that have been pored over by professionals and dismissed as firm evidence many, many years ago.

    But your persistence in presenting these amateur “proofs” confuses me somewhat, and now I’m really curious to know just why, in the face of professional historical research, you seem obsessed with insisting that an event that is recognised as probably mythic, and at the very least is highly suspect, must have taken place. Perhaps you can enlighten us all?

  • Seaan, can you please produce the words of this reprieve? Is there a link to an online source?

  • Gopher

    I was reading an account of Napoleon sitting writing his “touching” manuscripts on St Helena today, explaining the humanity of his campaign in Russia knowing there will be some wide eyed “professional” in the 21st century hanging on every word. It amused me no end thinking 500,000 men followed Shorty to their doom and nobody followed poor James. “The result, that teacher of fools” as a famous and talented historian once said.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Gopher, sometimes I feel that I’m conducting an on line seminar in how to re-think Irish and Scots history! If you read Irish, try “Aisling Ghéar” by Breandan Ó Buachalla, now out of print and very difficult to find, but you’ll get it at the Linen Hall Library or the McClay Library if you are in Belfast. Ó Buachalla definitively proves that Seumus an Chaca is a bit of a myth. I’d have to check the numbers, but from memory, over 100,000 poems commending the Stuarts are still in existence, as against about 200 where the “Seumus an Chaca” line it evident. Anecdotally, Neilsen’s Catholic Defenders left Munroe’s United men at Ballynahinch shouting the Jacobite line, “We’ve come to fight for King Henry (Henry Benedict “Henry IX”) not the Frenchies!” As late as 1840s, as Crofton Croker notes that Dublin Castle was concerned to know when Stuart party songs such as “The White Cockade” were sung at political meetings. Ó Buachalla is definitive in his analysis, but if you only read English, try Eamonn Ó Ciardha’s brilliant (and very readable) “Ireland and the Jacobite Cause,” which is still in print. Eamonn shows just how pervasive the love o the Stuarts remained well into the late eighteenth century. Just one example of this survival almost into our time. “Óró, sé do bheatha ‘bhaile” was a re-write by Pádraig Pearse of a song collected in South Armagh in the early 20th century that runs:

    A Shéarlais Óig a mhic Ríogh Shéamais,
    ’Sé mo mhór-chreach do thriall as Éirinn,
    Gan aon ruainne bróig’ ort, stocaí nó léine,
    Acht ’do chascairt leis na Franncaighibh.

    Óró, sé do bheatha abhaile,
    Óró, sé do bheatha abhaile,
    Óró, sé do bheatha abhaile,
    Anois ag teacht an tSamhraidh !

    The chorus, addressing Shéarlais Óig, or “Young Charles” roughly translated runs, “Oh you’re welcome to come home, and then the summer will have come” and much of the “Sunrise” or “Dawn” Imagery in the Irish political tradition stems from Jacobite imagery.

    And I agree with you about the moving quality of Napoleon’s manuscripts. Just for the record I have a small oil painting of Napoleon on the same wall as my Charles I painting hangs! Shorty was a brilliant and innovative pupil of the liberal enlightenment politics that came from the exiled Stuarts.

    Scots and Irish Jacobite, unable increasingly to believe in the long delayed Stuart restoration, turned to new ideas that had developed among the enlightenment friends of the Stuarts, and Jacobite became Jacobin. One conspicuous example is Robert Burns, who expresses both sentiments in his work. The Masonic connection is most important, see Marcia Keith Suchard’s enormous book “Restoring the Temple of Vision’ published by Brill of Leyden (if you require its academic credentials). This 1000 page + book is about the early links between the Stuarts and Liberal/Radical Freemasonary.

    Nevin, real history is in libraries and archives, not online, and its analysis is happening in the minds of the disciplined men and women who work these archives, not among computer geeks. I do not have a transcription of the reprieve, only notes. If you pay my expenses, I’ll go to the British public records office at Kew (there is no copy, not even a microfilm, in the National Library at Edinburgh) and make an accurate transcription for you. One feeble piece of folded paper with faint ink! That is how fragile real history is. I will look out the call up reference at Kew, and post it here later. It is mentioned in about seven academic books I know off, but that’s a lot of work to look out those citations.

    And I’m still waiting for your reasons for not going out and checking all this out properly for yourself in libraries, rather than simply shooting off short requests for me to do the work for you. My own motives, repeated in several postings above, is to ask people to re-think the valorising and sentimentalising of historical terrorists, and to note that the servants of the Stuarts may have persecuted, but when they were replaced, the new men persecuted with great gusto also. And even when they were out of power, their ardour for Killing was unabated. As Yeats says [Please check out the whole poem], “A beggar on horse back/lashes a beggar on foot……. the beggars have changed places/but the lash goes on.” I, and all the other readers, would dearly like to know your motives.

    I think I’ve said enough by now for any reasonable, unbigoted person to start questioning their inherited pre-conceptions. As far as I’m concerned when I post the call up for the reprieve, that’s it on this thread. Please, Nevin, carry out your own research properly in future, like the rest of us have to. Think of history as having as much import as your own genealogy. Now, you would not wish to have a family history thick with lies and half-truths, would you?

  • Gopher

    From a reasonable and unbigoted position a would just like to state, I’m sure it was of deep comfort to James after abandoning his crown and leaving England friendless and unsupported for France that there is 100,000 poems in existence in honour of his royal house and that the Catholic defenders of 1798 fought for his heirs.

  • “I think I’ve said enough by now for any reasonable, unbigoted person to start questioning their inherited pre-conceptions.”

    You really shouldn’t dig yourself deeper into a hole, Seaan 😉

    “Even you must be able to see that the threat of drowning, a medieval Scots punishment specially for women convicted of treason which had just been struck from legal practice a few months earlier in January 1685”

    Yet, apparently, Wodrow retrieved this from the Privy Council minutes 654-6:

    But at this time you are not to examine any women but such as hes been active in these courses in a signall manner, and these are to be drowned.

    It’s dated 13 January 1685 and it’s signed ‘J Grahame’ ie Claverhouse.

    A few months later and the hop from the myth to the reprieve. The Council minutes dated 30th April 1685 discharged ‘the Magistrates of Edinburgh (sic) from executing the widow and Margaret Wilson, and recommended the Secretaries of State to interpose with the King for a remission.’ This decision came too late as the drowning is dated May ii ie 2nd May 1685. Claverhouse, according to other sources, wasn’t party to the April decision; he was ‘dropped’ from the Council from 3rd March till 11th May.

    “The Covenanters of this period seem to me to be driven by a fanatic, almost irrational hatred of Catholicism and the Stuarts”

    They weren’t just opposed to Catholicism, the 1680 draft Queensferry Paper includes the following:

    To .. free the Church from Prelacy and Erastianism, and remove those who had forfeited authority; To uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland .. as an independent government; To overthrow the kingdom of darkness, i.e. Popery, Prelacy, Erastianism; To discard the royal family and set up a new republic. etc

    There are echoes of this Presbyterian mindset in Ireland in later centuries, not least in the 1912 Ulster Covenant, some of it fed by events in the Wars of the Three Realms in the mid-17th century. Our more recent Protestant v Catholic tussle erases many of these nuances.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Gopher, if you are mobile, just go and read the books I mentioned, like I said above. Start with “Aisling Ghéar” if you have any Irish.

    For those who only use Slugger, a third of the British army resigned and many of them accompanied James to Ireland. James did not “abandon” his crown, (a conveniant Whig propaganda slur, for fuller detail on this read Evelyn Crookshank’s “By Force or Default”) he avoided execution, such as had been inflicted on his saintly father, and retained his freedom of action. He was speedily followed into exile by numerious men who balked at suffering a final invasion by the Dutch, who had been the national enemy of Britian for about forty years. Rather than heroic democrats calling William over, think Vidkun Quisling calling in Hitler! Many of these exiles would go on to fight for James in Ireland.

    If you learn the piano early enough you develop a habit derived from playing two sets of notes at the same time. This is a great discipline that helps you to avoid the kind of “There Can BE Only One” thinking that those who seem to have found their intellectial level watching “Highlander” seem very prone to. Gopher, even if you are hopeless at the keyboard, if you have at least mastered the art of walking and chewing gum, please try and apply this skill to your thinking!

    Nevin, you may find it hard to believe but I actually have a bit of a weakness for Peden the Prophet and even Renwick An ancestor of mine was a friend of John Knox, after all. I am asking for people to simply think outside the box and compare new forensic research with the old safe stories they grew up with.

    For a start check out the three volumes of Mark Napier’s “Memorials and Letters illustrative of the life and times of John Graham of Claverhouse, viscount Dundee” for a much fuller account of the unreliable sources of the story, and many others. You will find the texts on archive.org.

    The third volume has a very full critique of Wodrow and Shields around page 699, from what my notes tell me. Napier sets the tone for modern interpretations, calling the story Wodrow’s “Calumnious fable of the drowning of Margaret Lauchison and Margaret Wilson…”

    I have just checked my own printed copy, and you will also find the wording of the reprieve on pages 690-691 of this volume. Napier also outlines all the contridictions of the propaganda versions, and shows just why Shields is so unreliable. Bit of homework, sorry. Not as easy as a google search, but the results are a lot more reliable.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, we appear to have been writing posts at the same time.

    I’m glad that you discovered the reprieve on your own, but if you were a scholar you would have gone somewhat further than crowing that you had found some proof. You would have checked carefully if it actually was proof. Wodrow is utterly unreliable, a propagandist! Napier, who describes the story as a fable, is a respected historian. In the real world, the sentence would not have been carried out while the appeal was still sitting with the King and the Privy council. Just think, such an action by the Wigtown magistrate would itself have been high treason! The reprieve is just what it says, a reprieve.

    But don’t just take my word, go to Napier and read the real story for yourself.

    But I’m so very glad that I’ve actually persuaded you to look at some real, proper books at last! Now all you need to learn is how to assess historical information and cite your comments! I take it that “Wodrow retrieved this from the Privy Council minutes 654-6” is an attempt to direct me to pages in Wodrow? Wodrow is, like most spin doctors, very, very selective, and if you check out the Privy Council minutes yourself, you will find where the revival of this old punishment is finally rejected. And don’t ask me “where?” go and look for yourself. If you wish to continue carrying out your education in public, please feel free, but I think I’ve written enough by now for anyone who is not blinded by an unshakable belief in their own utter rightness, like the Covenanters of old. I must return to my writing proper, I have some real work to do even if you have not!

    But as I said above, if you can sign an affidavit confirming you saw the drowning, I will certainly rethink!

    Just one last thing, I am still very interested as to why you are so very, very concerned to prove something that has long been dismissed by all reasonable historians!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, I find it hard to understand how you can offer this quote of unrestrained bigotry in what seems for you to be a positive light:

    “To .. free the Church from Prelacy and Erastianism, and remove those who had forfeited authority; ; To overthrow the kingdom of darkness, i.e. Popery, Prelacy, Erastianism; To discard the royal family and set up a new republic. etc”

    Thank you for offering such strong and dramatic proof that my association of the 17th centuary Covenanters with the Talaban is no exageration!!!!

    There Can ONLY Be One rule by the Saints of the Covenant! “To uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland .. as an independent government” as a POLITICAL government, note!!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And, Nevin, I had almost forgotten to point out that, as you will see on page 691, of Napier “Memorials Vol iii,” the two women were verifiably in custody in Edinburgh at the same time as they were supposedly being drowned at Wigtown.

    Napier offers an exact facsimile of the manuscript text proving this fact, as when the registrar’s words were re-printed in an other book by a Covenanter Historian, the site of their incarceration was changed by the unscrupulous propagandist to suggest that the women were at Wigtown at this time.

    This act of forgery is similar to the manner in which Wodrow occasionally handles his material. Beware!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello Nevin, I keep noticing things I have to ask you about! I’m becoming confused at some of your claims:

    “To uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland .. as an independent government; To overthrow the kingdom of darkness, i.e. Popery, Prelacy, Erastianism; To discard the royal family and set up a new republic. etc

    There are echoes of this Presbyterian mindset in Ireland in later centuries, not least in the 1912 Ulster Covenant”

    I can get all the anti-Catholic parts of your quote as feeding into the 1912 Covenant, but are you saying that “To discard the royal family and set up a new republic” was one of the aims of the Ulster Covenant? Now I’m really confused! Please check what the Covenant was really about in my friend Philip Orr’s indespensible book “New Perspectives – Politics, Religion and Conflict in Mid-Antrim, 1911-1914” as reviewed on Slugger 8/10/12. I recomend his book to anyone wanting to get a clear idea of what was actually going on in mid Antrim in the years leading up to 1914.

  • Gopher

    No Seean I do not have any Irish. The revolution was open and shut and the intrigues were played out in English after the revolution and for a couple of centuries after in the same language. William, Louis, Whigs and Tories moved their pawn, poor James around the board. Churchill’s four volumes was the last broadside in that political contest a few years after it had lost all political relevance but with Winston it was personal.

  • @Mick,

    The program looks very interesting, but because I live outside the British Isles I can’t get the video version of the program. Can I get an audio-only version on BBC Radio?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher, there are a number of seriously important developments among modern historians that analyse this history from what the Grand Narrative would call “peripheral interests,” such as our Irish experience. “Aisling Ghéar” by Breandan Ó Buachalla is brilliant analysis that links the Jacobite with the Jacobin traditions in Ireland, deploying the poetry of the Irish Jacobites to re-articulate the great conflict that began with the conquest of Ireland and took protean forms over the next four centuries. He has written a number of articles in English, but this, his magnum opus “Aisling Ghéar” is in Irish because much of the material he refers to is in Irish and he is pointing to the importance of recognising how much important history is lost when the narritaves written by the conquered in their own language are ignored by atriumphalist conqueror who will re-write history in another language.

    I was first introduced to the importance of Ó Buachalla in Richard Kearney’s “Post Nationalist Ireland” where his recognition of the Irish Royalist tradition is flagged to undermine one of the great myths of modern Ireland, the idea that a true Irishman must always have been something of a Republican.

    Anyone who has read my comments about Beppe elsewhere on Slugger will know that I’m interested in much more real democracy, not less, but the safeguard that the Stuarts offered as a legal longstop against the Plutocratic interests of their day still requires sensitive and intelligent analysis. Among Charles I’s last words on the scaffold is the phrase, “I die a martyr for the people” and this was no idle claim. James II used his much decried dispensing power to place all kinds on non-Anglican in royal service, not simply the Catholics. This is what is now called tolerance, and there are laws to affirm it, but in James’s time could only be carried out by a good man wielding his power to suspend forty years of bigoted laws in the interest of the oppressed.

    Try Eamonn Ó Ciardha’s brilliant (and very readable) “Ireland and the Jacobite Cause,” if you are really interested. He is the most able of the historians who have directly developed the work of Ó Buachalla.

    I was taught history at “A” level by a gay Bandon protestant, a one time boxer, who appeared to have a passionate crush on Churchill. We all had to read the Troll’s big four-volume book on the arch Traitor John Churchill, even though it was not on the curriculum. Every time I raised the then almost unknown Jacobite themes or criticised Winnie’s sainted ancestor in class, I got a heavy punch on my right ear. With my dommie it was personal also. We “privileged” all took this kind of thing for granted then at our schools, builds character and all that. But it has helped to remind me, in a black humour kind of way, of the very real issues of abuse in the Whig grand narrative.

    And Nevin, I have laboured long to attempt to answer your short questions. There was no short easy answer to them usually. But I really would value your opinions on something that has long puzzled me. How can someone commend and support the historical Covenanters and their actions while decrying the activities of PIRA and the other insurgent organisations during the troubles. Their intentions and activities run almost parallel, and both may deploy surprisingly similar claims of atrocity, while any comparison of political ideologies must heavily favour PIRAs for their much more advanced social theories.

    Is it that an attempt to challenge the state by Presbyterians is more acceptable simply because they were Presbyterians or is it that, as David Crookes mentions above, “That was then, and this is now.” Or perhaps you felt personally obliged to support PIRAs campaign of violence out of logical consistency.

  • “must heavily favour PIRAs for their much more advanced social theories.”

    Absolutely hilarious, Sean 🙂

    PS You certainly love this old personal abuse approach.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    No, sincerely, Nevin, I’m not mocking you, I would really like to know if you have thought through the consequences of your espousal and presentation of the dangerious propaganda lies of an earlier period.

    This is a serious issue, not to be laughed off. In the present day, for one side of a contemporary political argument that has and may again resort to violence, the term Covenanter is almost holy term, as you have clearly shown. But the original Covenanters differed little in their tactics from the PIRA, and this is not simply a joke, but something that any unbiased reading of the historical record plainly shows.

    Your demand that the bizarre myths of Wodrow and Shields are accepted as fact is what I’m still curious about. Why were you so insistent?

    I do not feel that what I’m writing is personal abuse; it’s simply an illustration of the end consequences of your support for the Covenanter propagandists. Your insistence that fable was fact did the rest, and required me to answer at considerable length. So, rather than abuse, I believe that what I was doing was an honest attempt to direct your valuable intelligence into a critical analysis of evidence so that you may recognise the true value of an unbiased approach to history.

    I have no desire to be your enemy, and I was not soft-soaping you at the start of this exchange. I truly appreciated your postings on the Runkerry issue last June when you drew our attention to the Planning issues Alex Attwood was over-riding, and has now over-ridden with a knife edge judgement on a technicality. This is something I feel very, very strongly about. I look forward to your future postings where your concern to advance the cause of historical terrorists does not over-ride your customary sense of social justice and decency.

  • Seaan, I, er, was making no demands, no commendations but that didn’t stop you go full steam ahead on a stream of personal invective. I look forward to seeing the next programme in the BBC series.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Nevin, but you were insisting, and insisting, and insisting that fiction was fact. Perhaps our exchange will now have shown others that simply because someone puts a history website up, it does not mean that the material on that site can be taken as acceptable proof of anything that actually happened in history. I always understood putting links to such sites to have been an honest and very understandable mistake on your part, but you would insist on conspicuously carrying out your education in this matter in public. I was, I hope, simply answering the misleading links on your postings as forcefully as I could.

    We both look forward to the Programme, although I would perhaps have made a much less partisan, and a more amusing, presenter than William, I think. Also I really, and most unaffectedly, look forward to your future postings on Slugger. I truly value your contributions, always, even during this at times rather heated exchange.

  • “Oh Nevin, but you were insisting, and insisting, and insisting that fiction was fact.”

    Oh, dear 🙁 Do keep rambling on, Seaan; methinks you doth protest too much.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good grief Nevin, you’re not still seriously pretending that this “myth” or “fable” happened!

    Anyone who wants the truth, who actually cares, Mark Napier, as above, check it out. The two reprieved women where in Edinburgh, not Wigtown, so unless they were drowned in a barrel of mamsey in their cells……

  • Gopher

    Seean you are aware that Churchill’s Raison d’être in his biography on Marlborough was defending his ancestor from Whig “slurs” and accusations of Jacobite tendencies specifically from Macauley. School days are so long ago sometimes we are entitled to forget facts.

    I think you will find that David Hume much to the consternation of several interest groups nailed Charles I with “sensitive and intelligent” analysis some centuries ago and in English as well. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery even if it is in Irish.

    The best synopsis of the Jacobite campaign in Ireland is probably one of the shortest and is by Mahan, to paraphrase, provided William could not land an army, Ireland was important after that event it was “peripheral” to the narrative.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Gopher, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since Hume wrote “some centuries ago”, and a lot of historians have researched a lot more material. But Hume has it all summed up for all eternity? Really?

    You have heard of something called “Post Modernism” I imagine? Nothing is “peripheral” to any narrative anymore for anyone who really cares about history. Hume is, what we call, “historically situated,” ie: writing for a specific audience at a specific time and in a specific place. His conclusions, ditto. As are mine, as are yours.

    I’m not going to be provoked to do another “drowning” series of replies, but if you read some of the work I’ve mentioned, you may find that some of your cannonical Whig Grand Narrative version melts a just little, perhaps enough to open up new vistas. Try Evelyn Crookshank’s work, if Eamonn Ó Ciardha and Ireland is not “British” enough.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Gopher, I remember the aweful four volume Marlborough biography all too well well. Read it again yourself, but read a few other books as well, try and get the feel of the period. John Churchill betrayed everyone, a seriel traitor really. Winnie was trying to suggest a consistency of patriotic purpose that even that fool and fictionalist Macauley would have systematically laughed out of court.