Posted by: Jim Bell | February 25, 2011

Pentland Rising Executions

The history of the Pentland rising is too well known to be repeated here. Suffice it to say that these men had been concerned, and afterwards fell victims to the justiciary commission, which, at the instigation of Sharp, was sent to Ayr. It condemned twelve persons to death, and it ordered eight of them to be executed at Ayr, two at Irvine, and two at Dumfries. A mandate from the Commission enjoined the local authorities “to sie their sentence for hanging the persounes, and affixing of the heides and right armes of Jon Grier in Four-merk-land, and William Welsch in Carsfairne, upon the eminenest pairts of the burgh,” whereupon the town council appointed the bridge port as “the fittest place.” It appears from the minutes of their meetings, that although that body was obsequious to the government, the inhabitants, instead of being intimidated by the horrible sight which met their gaze as they passed the old bridge, resolved to remove those ghastly remains; so the council applied for authority to have them transferred to the top of the tolbooth, and thus frustrate the designs of “disloyall persounes to take them away under cloudes of night, to the prejudice of this burgh.”

Thirty-five persons were brought to the scaffold for having been concerned in the Pentland rising, and among those executed at Edinburgh, were Neilson of Corsock, and several other Galloway gentlemen. The heads of Major M’Culloch of Barholm, Mr Gordon of Knockbreck, and his brother, were sent to Kirkcudbright for exhibition at the gates of the town, and their right arms were sent to Lanark, where, with uplifted hands, as was their wont, they had sworn the covenant. From inscriptions on gravestones at Kilmarnock and elsewhere, it appears that the bodies of others were similarly treated. The following, for example, is from the churchyard of Hamilton:—

“Stay, passenger, take notice what thou reads,
At Edinburgh ly our bodies, here our heads;
Our right hands stood at Lanark, these we want,
Because with them we sware the covenant.”

The British and foreign evangelical review, 1870.


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