Transcript for HoS 72

We’ll start off this episode in Edinburgh known to some as the Athens of the north, and to Tom Stoppard as the Reykjavik of the South. Whichever, let me take you there for 2nd May 1679. A very grand man, Archbishop James Sharp is preparing to set off in his coach with his daughter, Isabella, to travel to the Archbishops Palace at St Andrews. As one of the very grandest and most powerful public figures in Scotland, he had with him a small entourage, and his own carriage, and they took the opportunity to visit a friend and stay for the night, and then visit another friend the following day at the village of Ceres near Cupar in Fife. Off they then headed the pair of them, towards Strathkiness and then St Andrews just 8 miles away. All that lay between them and their destination was Magus Muir, an area of moorland.

As it happens, a group of 9 radical covenanters belonging to a group called the Cameronians, followers of one Richard Cameron, had been planning to cause the local Sheriff of Cupar some trouble, in retaliation for his persecution of Conventicles. But he was not where he was expected to be, so the group were frustrated and unfulfilled. Then a young lad rushed in and told them that the AB of St Andrews no less, one of the very architects of Covenanter repression was going to pass by. Quick as a flash, plans were changed; even better! Vengeance could be visited on the organ grinder, not just the monkey. David Hackson was elected leader, but he declined and said he’d come along but take no active involvement – he owed Sharp a Bond, and didn’t want anyone thinking that was behind his actions – this was not about money, this was about justice. John Balfour of Kinloch, nicknamed Burly, was duly made the leader of their endeavour. A bit of a firebrand by repute was our Balfour.

So there are James and Isabella, travelling across Magus Muir in the late afternoon, looking forward to a warm welcome at home when out from the moor leapt 9 men and grabbed the reins of the horses. To their horror, the Sharps saw they were all heavily armed with swords and muskets, and a gleam in their eyes.

Now, filled with righteous fury they might have been, but none of the men had planned for the AB’s daughter, and seriously did not want Isabella dragged into this. So, roughly they demanded the Archbishop get out the coach to face his music alone. James looked at them, and recognised that the natives were not friendly. And refused, terrified, while next to him his daughter cried out with fear.

Still Burley and the others demanded Sharp come out while Hackson held the horses heads; still he refused, and the Covenanters finally lost patience; and it now seems clear that assassination had always been the plan, and that when this was done, there would be more to follow. So, some of them shot into the coach trying to hit the AB but avoid Isabella, others stepped forward and stabbed with their swords through the window and doors trying to make the killing blow, and some seemed to land, and the coach fell quiet except for Isabella’s terrified sobs. And maybe that would have been that. But seeing her father shift his position slightly, she breathed in relief ‘there’s life yet’. Oh. Thanks Daughter.

Ha! Back to the bloody work the Covenanters returned, stabbing and shooting so that Sharp desperately agreed to come from the coach, worried about his daughter’s life; he staggered towards the man he recognised, Hackson standing with the horses and begged for his life. At last touched with pity, Hackson tried to stop the violence. But it was a too late for that.

With echoes of the assassination of Cardinal David Beaton in St Andrews castle at the start of the Reformation, the Covenanters told Sharp that look this wasn’t personal, they were sure he was a lovely man, fond of animals and all, but he was responsible for causing the death of Covenanters through his pursuit of Episcopalian uniformity. And they did him in, gentle listeners, they did him in, lifted up their hose – and legged it.

Keep this little tableau in mind; or if you are in the area nip long to the National Portrait gallery, where I believe you can see a picture of the event by Thomas Holloway. It was made in 1799, so as you can imagine, it is a picture not noted for its understatement. Anyway, the question I am sure is on your lips, is how did we get to this?  I thought we had come through the worst of the persecution, and had entered on a policy of reconciliation, and Comprehension. You might remember that we’d seen the hardline Alexander Burnet turfed out of his job, and the mild and moderate Robert Leighton replace him as Bishop of Glasgow instead. So where now is the sweetness? Now,  where now is the light?

Well, draw up a chair and listen up. Unless you’re driving in which case just keep your eyes on the road. You might remember that while giving with one hand – through acts of indulgences that tried to return presbyterian ministers to become part of the established church – the other hand was cracking down furiously on those not prepared to meet Lauderdale and the privy council half way – with increasing penalties for those that demonstrated their intransigence by attending conventicles. Well, essentially this policy was neither fish, nor was it fowl, and the more radical Presbyterian simply didn’t buy it. Because I think it is an accepted fact that your average 17th century Radical Presbyterian is not the kind of person you want to be facing across the negotiating table. Forget your cursed high way, it’s my way or nowt pal. Also fair dos, it’s hard to be agreeable when your government is billeting troops and carting Godly folk off to jail simply for worshiping their God in their way, or indeed as they saw it, God’s way.





So, while the more moderate Presbyterians were willing enough to go to their local parish church, accept their minister, but maybe secretly attend private conventicles where they could, in the South West and other areas, the people said no, they would praise their God as their conscience dictated. So despite the attempt at reconciliation, more and more people abandoned their local parish church, and took to the fields to listen to preachers after their own heart. The conventicles could be absolutely enormous – some of them grew to be 10,000, families coming from miles around to be together with their soulmates. All the time with a wary eye on the possibility of the militia turning up attack and break up the crowd, to drag ringleaders away to prison or worse. So many of the men would be armed, ready to defend life and limb.

And that’s all it was – to defend life and limb. But look at this from Lauderdale’s point of view – thousands of people meeting in a field, many of them armed, in contravention of the laws laid down by the state – looks awfully like potential rebellion. And meanwhile there were influential voices on the Episcopalian side – Rothes, Sharp, Ex AB Burnet – loudly complaining that all of this flouted the authority of the establish church, and undermined it. Even Robert Leighton reported that some of ministers he appointed in the west were ‘beaten and stoned away’ by their congregations. So Lauderdale faced opposition to the idea of conciliation, and the Privy Council was an increasingly fractious place. Crucially though, for the moment Lauderdale continued to enjoy the confidence of the king, and therefore his position, but he failed to establish a harmonious working relationship with his Privy Councillors. He would constantly have to play politics to keep his position secure in both Edinburgh and London.

Politics, then threatened to sweep away the attempt to achieve some sort of harmony in the church. And you know, social stuff did too; it’s easy to ignore personal relationships among all the debate of the big things – but of course they play an enormous part in politics, just powerful people not getting on; but they are sometimes tricky to quantify. But let’s try just for the moment, because it allows me to introduce a couple more characters onto the stage, Elizabeth Countess Dysart and William Hamilton, the Duke of Hamilton. This is in a way a digression away from politics for a moment, so sorry, roll your eyes and settle back.

Let me start with Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart in her own right through her father the Earl of Dysart a royalist who had fought for Charles in Scotland. Elizabeth was a chip off the old bloke, and someone who refused to accept the traditional role laid out for; she fiercely took on the royalist cause. In 1648 at the age of 22 she was married off to Lionel Tollemarche, a man described lovingly as ‘the unexceptional but extremely rich owner of estates in Suffolk and the midlands’. Oh, How I’d like that to be on my gravestone – only managed the first bit if you could find me a few more podcast members maybe I could make the second. Anyway, Elizabeth was not born for life among the mangels of Suffolk, although she did find the time to produce 11 children I mean golly given everything else she did, quite something.

Anyway, Elizabeth was determined to be a political force, and work for the restitution of the monarchy during the commonwealth. She was well educated, intelligent and charismatic, worked the corridors of court, while based at her Dad’s pad at Ham House SW of London – a beautiful place by the way if you ever get a chance to visit. She joined the secret society the Sealed Knot, and used her position as the ‘Lady of Ham House’ to throw parties at which the likes of Oliver Cromwell were present – but then corresponded secretly with royalists giving them the news and the goss, took herself off to the continent, even visited Charles himself. Through all this spying, she got to know Lauderdale, claims to have saved his life by pleading with Cromwell, and after the restoration it seems pretty clear she and Lauderdale were lovers. Lionel, meanwhile was rather left behind, and by 1669 was dead anyway. He left some advice for his son, very reflective of the patriarchal mores of the time. Wives, he wrote

are but too apt to take advantage of the fondness of theire husband, and upon it growe insolent and imperious, and inclined to pervert the laws of nature by indeavouringe a superiority over the husband and if shee getts the reignes in her own hands, away shee will runn with it, you scarce ever will stopp her in the whole course of her life.

I leave that there for you as a social record of the attitudes of the time.

Well, Lauderdale was quick to nip down to Ham House to commiserate with Lionel’s widow, and it’s this time at which the pair probably became lovers, and the nipping became a bit of a common occurrence. Lauderdale’s own marriage was also unsurprisingly on the rocks, and Anna Maitland had escaped to the continent anyway. In 1671 she died to. Within a few months, Charles II’s court was scandalised by the news that Lauderdale and the Countess of Dysart were getting married.

Well, Elizabeth Maitland, still Countess of Dysart in her own right by the way was very energetic, very much revelling in her grandness and social power, and very determined not to be shoved into the background. She was extravagantly rich, and extravagantly avaricious for more, and the two of them spent wildly on Ham House, their Scottish pad Thirlstone house and other Scottish properties; she would become a by word for spending and extravagance  and a symbol of the corruption that followed Lauderdale’s government and career.

So, in 1672 she travelled north to Scotland with her new husband. And started as she meant to go on – that she would be every bit as visible in Scotland as she had been in England. She started with a tad of outrage at the opening of the 1672 parliament. Where, in the face of all tradition, she demanded to be admitted with her attendant ladies, stormed to the front, loudly demanded chairs for them all. I would love to have been a fly on the wall, must have been a lot of fun watching the imperious Countess ordering the world make room for her. I suspect most people at the time did not see the funny side – there was much gasping, sucking of teeth, grinding of molars around the tollbooth.

One of the people watching all of this with some horror, was one William Douglas-Hamilton, the Duke of Hamilton. Hamilton is not the son of Charles I’s minister, executed in 1649; he was in fact a Douglas by birth, and Earl of Selkirk. Potentially a difficult life had been laid out for him in Scotland; both his parents were Catholic, and he had been sent to France to be educated and brought up a catholic. But he had set his cap at one Anne Hamilton, Duchess in her own right, who was indeed the daughter of the Executed Duke. Now Anne Hamilton was a staunch Presbyterian, and her father had set out pretty detailed requirements for her marriage; she was to marry someone with the Hamilton name, and if she didn’t a Hamilton, then her husband must be

‘a nobleman of any other name, of the reformed Protestant religion and of untainted loyalty and fidelity to the king’.

I did not know that sort of thing was possible. I must tell my girls and see what they think. Some requirement around podcasting maybe. Anyway, William was quick tempered and imperious, but quick witted, intelligent and energetic, and as the historian Gilbert Burnet recorded he

‘was a very handsome man and, having gained the affections of the youthful duchess, to obtain her wide domains he consented to embrace the Protestant religion’

There’s something there that reminds me of a reversal of the famous Jane Austen thing of about Lizzie falling in Darcy after she’d seen his great estate at Pemberley but in fact, like Lauderdale and Dysart, William and Anne were to form a very close and loving partnership. Anne set up shop in Arran, and was active not only in the traditional role of producing heirs, running the estate and building works, but also carried out projects to develop the local economy – setting up ferry services, establishing a harbour, setting up schools, getting a salt works going, set up a woollen manufactory. Something of a dynamo.




However, for neither of them was the style of the Lauderdales to their liking, and it appears Hamilton took his conversion seriously – it was not just for form or those luscious estates. He was a member of the Pricy Council, and had become increasingly disenchanted with Lauderale’s repression of the Presbyterians, and looked for an even more moderate approach, an end to the repression and the exercise of arbitrary power. And behind him other voices on the Privy Council were urging him to challenge Lauderdale’s policy and position; in particular Rothes, sidelined of course by Lauderdale now, and the Marquis of Queensberry, urged him to challenge Lauderdale and form a sort of opposition to his unopposed rule.

At the 1672 parliament, then, Hamilton opposed the raising of a subsidy to support the Anglo Dutch war, demanded by their kong; instead, he demanded that grievances be discussed and resolved before such money was granted – at last, a sign of some resistance to the rather dramatically royalist bent of the Restoration Scottish parliament and government. Well, you could have heard a pin drop. Lauderdale knew a threat to his power and position when he saw it – and suspended parliament.

Hamilton and his faction were not finished though. Hamilton and the Earl of Dumfries, William Crichton, now travelled down to London to put their case to the king. Lauderdale was horrified – he always sought to carefully gloss and clean up news that came south – no need to worry the king with troubles and grief! Hamilton and Dumfries though, were given an audience, complained about not only Lauderdale’s policy but his corruption, that Lauderdale and his brother Charles Maitland of Hatton, the lord treasurer, had accumulated all the profitable public offices for themselves and their friends.

Sadly, his timing was out; because the tide was turning against him, and the policy of conciliation. Not only was it becoming clear that the religious policy wasn’t working, and the voices of the Episcopal church from the likes of Sharp and Alexander Burnet becoming more strident against the Presbyterians, but Charles was under pressure in England. In 1673, Charles tried to take the same policy of Indulgence to England, and produced a vicious fight back by the protestants; that year, Charles was forced to abandon most of his ministers – the Cabal came to an end.

Leaving only the L, as it happens, Lauderdale. Charles could not, would not – allow what was happening in England to affect his power in Scotland. His greater power and control there must remain as a bulwark against the waters rising against him further south. So the outcomes of the meeting was not positive for Hamilton and Dumfries; their petition was refused, many of Hamilton’s supporters removed from positions of power, and in 1676 in a further meeting, Hamilton himself lost his position on the Privy Council. Hamilton’s day would come, but for the moment Lauderdale had demonstrated his political skills and grip, and to maintain it, the policy of even harsher repression began to return.

So, in 1674, Lauderdale prevailed on the PC to issue a proclamation requiring heritors to be responsible for the behaviour of their tenants in observing the 1670 Conventicles act, and take a bond from them for their actions. This needs some explanation; heritors were those lords and landowners with legal rights over the occupants of their land. But these rights were often very tenuous; essentially feudal in nature and often very old, although they would stick around. Often, the owner of the rights had lost much practical control over the land itself, and were just left with these nominal rights – although in some areas particularly the Highlands, they could still be very real

Anyway, this ruling making heritors responsible for the behaviour of tenants, was a nightmare. Not only was it socially divisive, heritors had very little practical relationships with their tenants.  And then also masters generally were to be held responsible for their servants, and burgh magistrates for burgesses. These are requirements that sometimes took no realistic view of the heritors ability to make them stick. But in the three years of 1674-6, a stonking £368,000 Scots was raised by it from these folks. So, not just a theoretical requirement; in many areas, such as Lanarkshire, heritors refused the bond en masse. In 1678, though action was taken against them to enforce the laws.

In 1675, the council effectively established military rule in some areas – setting up garrisons in Presbyterian hotspots; the complaints of the Bishops against the rising tides of conventicles grew louder, and worse from Lauderdale’s point of view, Charles’ voice joined them, telling Lauderdale that he refused to sacrifice

the laws to the humours and fashions of private intervention

And so in the closing days of 1677 Charles authorised military intervention. Calling on the martial resources of the Highlands, an army, known to history as the Highland Host would be raised and sent to the Presbyterian heartlands, to reduce them to

Due obedience… by taking free quarter from those that are disaffected

We are back to the policy of free quarter, that is the billeting of troops on households, at enormous cost, alarm and often physical pain to the householders. The Host were also to disarm people, enforce the bonds required by heritors. Since this army was to be raised in the Highlands, this seems, then, a good time to go to the highlands and see how things are getting on there.






The general high level summary of the attitude from Edinburgh and the Council towards the Highlands and Western isles appears to be that this was a hotbed of violence, thievery and savagery, which must be controlled with harsh measures. This sounds sort of par for the course as lowland and highland mutual suspicion goes; but the question I suppose is whether or not the highlands were indeed unusually lawless compared to the lowlands or not? Alan McInnes [1] proposes something more political was at play – that the Council refused to take a conciliatory and collaborative policy towards the Highland gentry, which made the problem worse; and were inclined to use social disorder as an excuse to send the troops in – partly to impose order but also to exact money.

It can’t be denied that violence was still an issue. One example would be the murder in 1663 of the clan leaders of the MacDonald of Keppoch by 7 Killers in a dispute about clan leadership. That murder was at last dealt with in the approved manner – the relevant Kinsmen, Donald MacDonald the clan leader of the murdered man applied to the council for the required permission of ‘fire and sword’ to administer summary justice since the killers were well known. I have to say, I can’t resist embellishing the story by mentioning that the heads of the killers were cut off, and washed in a well and presented at Invergarry Castle to shame a local MacDonald Clan blamed locally for failing to avenge the murder with all due speed – it had taken two years to carry out. The well is still around and known as the Well of Heads I think.

But the more relevant fact, after I’ve enjoyed the grisly details, is that this was in fact an isolated incident; the withdrawal of the Commonwealth garrisons had not resulted in an outbreak of violence, and the practice of clan wars to resolve clan leadership was no longer a common occurrence. A report by John Campbell to the Committee of Estates in 1661 had emphasised that lawlessness was largely centred in the area around Locknaber – sometimes referred to as the ‘highlands within the highlands’; Campbell highlighted a few specific clans from the area – the aforementioned MacDonalds of Keppoch, the Macdonalds of Glencoe and the Camerons; to which list might be added the McGregors – not mentioned by Campbell, spookily, since they were his clients.

Other traditional sources of violence were also decreasing. Clan battles had been a traditional method of settling disputes about land ownership; but these were increasingly seen as anachronistic. And generally clan chiefs now preferred formal litigation through the courts, based on written charters, to settle disputes – a sign of the spreading practice of lowland landownership practice. The example of Lachlan McIntosh of Torcastle is interesting, as the only chief to be involved in two feuds over the period. In 1665 he managed to mobilse 1,500 clansmen to try and seize the lands claimed by Ewen Cameron of Lochiel. But although he commanded an impressive numerical superiority, yet he was forced to back down – because his clansmen refused to fight against the Cameron. They protested that the Cameron had clearly lived on the lands through living memory, and therefore refused to take part in an action they saw as pure robbery. McIntosh appears again in dispute with the MacDonalds of Keppoch; this time, he found it hard to raise many men from Clan Chattan, and was only able to carry on because he was supported by government forces. This was 1688, and the resulting battle at Mulroy on the braes of Lochnaber has the honour of being the last clan battle. Put it in your diary.

This growth of litigation is an interesting development in itself; since James IV had introduced the idea of land based on contract, like in the lowlands, the practice had grown. It had multiple advantages – clan battles were highly risky, and the Council might well in a dispute not accept title to land won in such a way, rather than issued by charter from the king. A charter was authoritative, so successful litigation stuck. In addition, clan chiefs were more and more being integrated into Scottish landed society, becoming to enjoy and expect the kind of conspicuous consumption of the lowland nobility. Which is nice, but highland chiefs after the disruption of the civil wars were frequently in debt, so their focus was not on the seizing of land, but managing estates and repairing their finances; the market for Highland Black Cattle had grown significantly with the opening up of the market in England, and exploiting that needed less disruption.

Various other traditional aspects of Highland society were also falling away. The ritualistic creach, whereby the young sons of the chief and their companions demonstrated their virility by lifting livestock from a neighbouring clan, was already a byegone tradition. The herschip, or raid, was not much carried out anymore, except around lochnaber. There were still problems, such as the operation of caterans, the traditional fighting men who might carry out raids on behalf of the clan; but the problem was now much smaller, with tighter control by clan chiefs. Aand when cateran raids did still happen, particularly in lowland border areas, it was generally a problem caused by lawless men, outside the clan structure; and the use of the Tascal, a compensation payment, often resolved issues before litigation or government intervention was needed.

The big picture seems to be then, that violence and the threat of violence was still around, since Chiefs continued to insist on maintaining large contingents of armed followers. And you know how it is – armed young men hanging around the place trying to look cool does increase the potential for violence. But it is a picture of decreasing violence, and a recognition by chiefs that the world no longer operated in this way; and it’s worth noting that at no point was there any prospect of rebellion, or organised violence against central government.  It’s also a picture of changes in the fundamental structure of highland society, in terms of land ownership in particular, which will become increasingly relevant as we go into the 18th century.

None the less, the perspective of central government didn’t seem to reflect this change. Some of the issues were simply about tax collection, and the sometimes unscrupulous methods by the government to exact them. Highland shires were among the most delinquent areas for paying public dues – the result was the frequent use of government troops to collect tax, often billeted on local tenants. In 1667, garrisons were re-established in the highlands by the Earl of Athol under commission from the Council, on the excuse of social disorder – but in reality to enforce tax collection. The same commission saw the use of what became known as ‘independent companies’ – groups of armed clansmen, employed by the government to collect tax and enforce order. And a new standing Committee was set up to settle the highlands in 1669, under the leadership of the Duke of Hamilton. The escalation of government military action was often justified by claims of social disorder. So  for example a commission given to one James Campbell of Lawers to employ a force to settle another dispute in Lochnaber, was accompanied by government troops – who were ordered, just incidentally, to collect tax from deliquents who had failed to pay their cess, or  land tax. Another expedition into Caithness by an Independent company of 700 ended up in a pitched battle with a Sinclair band of 300 men. The accusation of lawlessness that had justified the expedition was exposed as false in the 1681 parliament.

The escalation of military violence seems have indicated some seemingly contradictory realities. The use of the military to collect taxation and the exploitation and exaggeration of social disorder, to an extent reflected a weakness of the central government in Edinburgh, not strength, and its inability to enforce collections through normal, community processes of the shire system.

An alternative, more conciliatory and collaborative approach might have been suggested by the use of bands. So – this initiative we talked about earlier with heritor being held responsible for the behaviour of their tenants – was also applied in Highland areas. The response by highland chiefs was very different to the lowlands; it was, in contrast, relatively popular there. Because it effectively recognised the fact that to govern effectively in the Highlands, the government needed the willing collaboration of the chiefs, and the rights and authority of those chiefs. When James, the Duke of York spent time in the Highlands in the 1680s, he would take this more conciliatory approach, and reap the rewards. But under Lauderdale for the most part, the Highland chiefs were seen as relatively powerless, and lacking influence, and being instigators of social disorder – they were distrusted. And therefore the more brutal military approach continued.







Nor was the Council the only enemy of the Highland chiefs. We should return to the story of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll. We heard about his wobbly start to the regime, despite Charles’ support. But by 1663 he was back at the head of the Campbell empire, by 1664 back on the privy council; and by the end of the 1660s was firmly ensconced in government. He’d mended his bridges over a dispute with the Montrose family, he was well in Lauderdale’s pocket, and resumed his hereditary position as Justiciar of the highlands and Western Isles. Generally speaking, he was regarded as a moderate as regards Presbyterians, less keen to enforce fierce levels of oppression.

However, such mildness did not extend to the highlands, where the Campbell family went back to their traditional empire building ways, with our Archie ably aided and abetted by his kinsman, John Campbell of Glenorchy. So you may have heard before that the Campbell modus operandum was to offer money to impoverished clan chiefs with an eye to the good life; and then call in those debts and appropriate lands of the debtors used as collateral when they failed to pony up. Thus did they extend their territories and lordship. And you will have heard that this did not make them popular, and indeed I think that, for many reasons, the slight odour of disapprobation hangs over the Campbells even now – am I wrong? I base this on a few random comments over the years, and a comment from someone of this parish, whose surname, spookily, is MacDonald. These wounds take time to heal fully. A certain incident at Glencoe in 1692 isn’t going to help either, but that’s for the future.

Anyway, debts. Argyll’s lands were peculiarly loaded with debt due to the terms on which he had been restored to his father’s forfeited estates, And so the traditional squeezing of debtors was resumed; often he exploited feudal charters, where Highland chief had gained them as official title. So, under the threat of calling in his debts, he had title transferred from the Crown to him – so that the chief in question now owed allegiance to Argyll, rather than directly to the crown.  Thus Argyll lordship was extended. But now the 9th Earl applied an added twist. Because he misused his official position as Justiciar in pursuing what was essentially his private business. Let us take John MacClean of Duart who had inherited £200,000 worth of debt to Campbell. So, Campbell sued them, but the Maclean refused to pay – and so Argyll went to the council and pointed out the MaCleans also owed public taxes Gosh, that’s terrible they said, and compliantly, the Council recognised MacClean’s resistance as public rebellion, and issued the right of fire and Sword to Argyll. Public office was being effectively used to pursue private debt, thus centra; government became a corrupt tool of those in power. In 1674, Argyll invaded Mull to take possession of lands as payment; but with the help of local clans, the MacCleans fought him off. Back to the drawing board – Argyll then persuaded the Council to establish official garrisons bordering Campbell lands – preventing the local clans from helping out the Macleans next time. With renewed rights of Fire and Sword and the use of Independent Companies, by 1679 Argyll had what he wanted, and was in full control of Mull.

As a general point from all of this, the Restoration period in particular embedded an attitude in the Scottish Council’s attitude that the arbitrary and ruthless use of military force in the Highlands was an effective, necessary and acceptable way to proceed; and it might be claimed that from this you can draw a straight line to the massacre at Glencoe.

All of which makes it faintly ironic that in 1678 as we have said, Lauderdale and Charles should turn to the Highlands to provide the muscle to impose order on the Presbyterians of the South West through the Highland Host. Only chiefs in the Highlands trusted by the Council were recruited, meaning they were mainly from the south and central highlands; and nor was the resulting host purely highlanders – it numbered 8,000 strong by the end of it, of which maybe 5,000 were Highlanders, the rest from Lowland militia. Their job, in practice, was to force everyone to sign up to the Heritors’ bond committing not to attend conventicles, and to dob in anyone attending them nonetheless.

The Host assembled in Stirling in January 1678. As news came to Fife, the Fifers beat the drum of retreat, and most of the heritors caved in and swore to the bond. But elsewhere, resistance grew; in Glasgow only 153 took the bond, in Renfrewshire just 2. In Lanarkshire there were 2,900 heritors -and guess how many signed up? Just 19.

And so, the dogs of war were let slip, The Host went on tour – Glasgow, Ayrshire and onwards. Their job was to pressurise heritors to sign up to the bond; but as Presbyterian commentators related, they instead saw it as an opportunity to terrorise and rob for the month before they were disbanded, and make a few bob. Although many of the horrors and atrocities reported as the host moved through South West Scotland – tortures, rape and murder – are mainly disputed now. But the plunder was certainly part of the story – money, cattle, anything moveable.

There were several consequences really of all of this. One of those consequences was NOT that everyone signed up to the bond, So, wah wah oops on that one. A longer term one was that the Highland Host simply confirmed all lowlanders’ prejudices against Highlanders as savages and a threat to their society that might be called on at any time; the historian Alan McInnes described the strategy as the government exploiting racial tensions between Gaeldom and the Lowlands. Which would have consequences.

In the shorter term, repression, and the Murder of James Sharp, was to burst into violence. James Sharp was for both sides a symbol. For the Covenanters he was a Judas, a Covenanter who had turned his back on that sacred trust to establish the Bishops once more and oppress his previous friends. John Balfour now claimed that he had ‘received a call from God’ to murder Sharp. To the government he was a member of the privy Council, brutally murdered, a murder just one step away from killing the king. Later Presbyterians would write of the 1680s as a time of murder and brutal repression, they called them The Killing Times.

Well, shortly after Sharps murder, on 1st June, 1679, a vast conventicle took place at Drumclog just south of Glasgow; at these events it was reasonably common not only for many men to be armed, but for drilling and training to take place; and the armed men might not only be on foot, but also mounted; I mean if you were looking at a potential rebellion it had many of the required elements it must be said. Anyway. mid meeting the preacher Thomas Douglas paused; he’d received a message – John Graham Claverhouse, known to the Presbyterians as Bloody Clavers had sent his dragoons. They were on the way to Drumclog right now. The Killing Times had arrived.

Right on that cliff edge it is probably time to take a break; in the next episode we will hear more of the Killing Times, and the impact of the Duke of York, the Darling of the Age.

[1] McInnes, A; ‘Repression and Conciliation: The Highland Dimension 1660-1688

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