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Reign of William and Mary, 1689-1694, pp.342-354.

KING JAMES having fled in terror to France, his nephew and daughter, the Prince and Princess of Orange, were proclaimed king and queen as William and Mary; and the Episcopacy established at the Restoration, after a struggling and unhonoured existence of twenty-eight years, gave way to the more popular Presbyterian Church. There were new figures in the Privy Council, and none of them ecclesiastical. There was a wholly new set of senators on the bench of the Court of Session. It looked like the sudden shift of scenes in a pantomime, rather than a series of ordinary occurrences.

Almost as a necessary consequence of the Revolution, a war with France commenced in May 1689. Part of the operations took place in Ireland, where James II., assisted with troops by King Louis, and supported by the Catholic population, continued to exercise sovereignty till his defeat at the Boyne (July 1, 1690). During 1693, there were great alarms about invasion from France, and the forcible restoration of the deposed king; and some considerable severities were consequently practised on disaffected persons. By the death of the queen (December 28, 1694), William was left in the position of sole monarch of these realms.



Apr. – A little incident connected with the accession of King William and Queen Mary was reported to Wodrow as ‘beyond all question.’ When the magistrates of Jedburgh were met at their market-cross to proclaim the new sovereigns and drink their healths, a Jacobite chanced to pass by. A bailie asked him if he would drink the king’s health; to which he answered no, but he was willing to take a glass of the wine. They handed him a little round glass full of wine; and he said: ‘As surely as this glass will break, I drink confusion to him, and the restoration of our sovereign and his heir;’ then threw away the glass, which alighted on the tolbooth stair, and rolled down unbroken. The bailie ran and picked up the glass, took them all to witness how it was quite whole, and then dropping some wax into the bottom, impressed his seal upon it, as an authentication of what he deemed little less than a miracle.

Mr William Veitch happening to relate this incident in Edinburgh, it came to the ears of the king and queen’s commissioner, the Earl of Crawford, who immediately took measures for obtaining the glass from Jedburgh, and ‘sent it up with ane attested account to King William.’

June 23. – This morning, being Sunday, the royal orders for the appointment of fifteen new men to be Lords of Session reached Edinburgh, all of them being, of course, persons notedly well affected to the new order of things. Considering the veneration professed for the day by zealous Presbyterians in Scotland, and how high stood the character of the Earl of Crawford for a religious life, one is rather surprised to find one of the new judges (Crossrig) bluntly telling that that earl ‘sent for me in the morning and intimated to me that I was named for one of them.’ He adds a curious fact. ‘It seems the business had got wind, and was talked some days before, for Mr James Nasmyth, advocate, who was then concerned for the Faculty’s Library, spoke to me to pay the five hundred merks I had given bond for when I entered advocate; which I paid. It may be he thought it would not be so decent to crave me after I was preferred to the bench.’

July 10. – A poor young woman belonging to a northern county, wandering southwards in search of a truant lover, like a heroine of one of the old ballads, found herself reduced to the last extremity of distress when a few miles south of Peebles. Bewildered and desperate, she threw her babe into the Haystoun Burn, and began to wander back towards her own country. A couple of the inhabitants of Peebles, fishing in the burn, soon found the body of the infant, and, a search being made, the wretched mother was discovered at a place called Jedderfield, brought into town, and put in confinement, as a suspected murderess. The magistrates of the burgh applied to the sheriff, John Balfour of Kailzie, to have the supposed culprit taken off their hands and tried; but he refused to interfere, owing to ‘the present surcease of justice’ in the country. Consequently, the magistrates were ‘necessitate to cause persons constantly guard the murderer, the prison not being strong enough to secure her.’ On their petition, the Privy Council allowed the Peebles authorities to send Margaret Craig with a guard to Edinburgh, and ordained her to be received into the Tolbooth of Leith, till she be processed for the murder. – P. C. R.

This miserable young woman must have lain in prison three years, for she was tried by the Court of Justiciary in June 1692, and condemned to be hanged. – Justiciary Record.

July 26. – There is something interesting in the early difficulties of so valuable a institution as the Post-office. John Graham had been appointed postmaster-general for Scotland in 1674, with a salary of a thousand pounds Scots (£83, 6s. 8d. sterling), and had set about his duty with great spirit. He had travelled to many towns for the purpose of establishing local offices, thus incurring expenses far beyond what his salary could repay. He had been obliged on this account to encroach on money belonging to his wife, also incur some considerable debts; nor had he ever been able to obtain any relief, or even the full payment of his salary from the late state-officers. He was now dead, and his widow came before the Privy Council with a petition setting forth how she had been left penniless by her husband through his liberality towards a public object. It was ordained that Mrs Graham should get payment of all debts due by provincial offices to her husband, and have the income of the general office till Martinmas next.

Oct. 10. – It was now acknowledged of the glass-work at Leith that it was carried on successfully in making green bottles and ‘chemistry and apothecary glasses.’ It produced its wares ‘in greater quantity in four months than was ever vended in the kingdom in a year, and at as low rates as any corresponding articles from London or Newcastle.’ The Privy Council therefore gave it the privileges of a manufactory, and forbade introduction of foreign bottles, only providing that the Leith work should not charge more than half-a-crown a dozen.


Aug. 16. – William Bridge, an Englishman, had come to Scotland about ten years ago, at the invitation of a coppersmith and a founder in Edinburgh, to ‘give them his insight in the airt of casting in brass;’ and now they had imparted their knowledge to James Miller, brasier in the Canongate. Bridge petitioned the Privy Council for some charity, ‘seeing he left his own kingdom for doing good to this kingdom and the good town of Edinburgh.’ The Council took that way of proving their benevolence on which Mr Sydney Smith once laid so much stress – ‘they recommend to the magistrates of Edinburgh to give the petitioner such charity as he deserves.’


Feb. 13. – King William felt impatient at the unsubmissiveness of the Jacobite clans, chiefly Macdonalds of Glengarry, Keppoch, and Glencoe, the Grants of Glenmoriston, and the Camerons of Locheil, because it caused troops to be kept in Scotland, which he much wanted for his army in Flanders. His Scottish ministers, and particularly Sir John Dalrymple, Master of Stair, the Secretary of State, carried towards those clans feelings of constantly growing irritation, as latterly the principal obstacle to a settlement of the country under the new system of things. At length, in August 1691, the king issued an indemnity, promising pardon to all that had been in arms against him before the 1st of June last, provided they should come in any time before the 1st of January next year, and swear and sign the oath of allegiance.

The letters of Sir John Dalrymple from the court at London during the remainder of the year show that he grudged these terms to the Highland Jacobites, and would have been happy to find that a refusal of them justified harsher measures. It was all the better that the time of grace expired in the depth of winter, for ‘that,’ said he (letter to Colonel Hamilton, December 3, 1691), ‘is the proper season to maul them, in the cold long nights.’ In the midst of a letter on the subject, dated the 11th January (addressed to Sir Thomas Livingstone, commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland), he says: ‘Just now my Lord Argyll tells me that Glencoe hath not taken the oaths; at which I rejoice – it’s a great work of charity to be exact in rooting out that damnable sect, the worst in all the Highlands.’ Particular instructions subscribed by the king followed on the 16th, permitting terms to be offered to Glengarry, whose house was strong enough to give trouble, but adding: ‘If McIan of Glencoe and that tribe can be well separated from the rest, it will be a proper vindication of the public justice to extirpate that sect of thieves.‘ On the same day, Dalrymple himself wrote to Colonel Hill, governor of Inverlochy: ‘I shall entreat you that, for a just vengeance and public example, the thieving tribe of Glencoe be rooted out to purpose. The Earls of Argyll and Breadalbane have promised they shall have no retreat in their bounds.’ He felt, however, that it must be ‘quietly done;’ otherwise they would make shift both for their cattle and themselves. There can be no doubt what he meant; merely to harry the people, would make them worse thieves than before – they must be, he elsewhere says, ‘rooted out and cut off.’

In reality, the old chief of the Glencoe Macdonalds had sped to Inverlochy or Fort-William before the end of the year, and offered his oath to the governor there, but, to his dismay, found he had come to the wrong officer. It was necessary he should go to Inverary, many miles distant, and there give in his submission to the sheriff. In great anxiety, the old man toiled his way through the wintry wild to Inverary. he had to pass within a mile of his own house, yet stopped not to enter it. After all his exertions, the sheriff being absent for two days after his arrival, it was not till the 6th of January that his oath was taken and registered. The register duly went thereafter to the Privy Council at Edinburgh; but the name of Macdonald of Glencoe was not found in it: it was afterwards discovered to have been by special plans obliterated, though still traceable.

Here, then, was that ‘sect of thieves’ formally liable to the vengeance which the secretary of state meditated against them. The commander, Livingstone, on the 23d January, wrote to Colonel Hamilton of Inverlochy garrison to proceed with his work against the Glencoe men. A detachment of the Earl of Argyll’s regiment – Campbell’s, hereditary enemies of the Macdonalds of Glencoe – under the command of Campbell of Glenlyon, proceeded to the valley, affecting nothing but friendly intentions, and were hospitably received. Glenlyon himself, as uncle to the wife of one of the chief’s sons, was hailed as a friend. Each morning, he called at the humble dwelling of the chief and took his morning draught of usquebaugh, written on the 12th at Ballachulish by Major Robert Duncanson (a Campbell also), were now in Glenlyon’s hands. They bore – ‘You are to put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have a special care that the old fox and his son do on no account escape your hands. You are to secure all avenues, that none escape; this you are to put in execution at five o’clock precisely, and by that time, or very shortly after it, I’ll strive to be at you with a stronger party. If I do not come to you at five, you are not to tarry for me, but to fall on.’

Glenlyon was but too faithful to his instructions. His soldiers had their orders the night before. John Macdonald, the chief’s eldest son, observing an unusual bustle among the soldiers, took an alarm, and inquired what was meant. Glenlyon soothed his fears with a story about a movement against Glengarry, and the lad went to bed. Meanwhile, efforts were making to plant guards at all the outlets of that alpine glen; but the deep snow on the ground prevented the duty from being fully accomplished. At five, Lieutenant Lindsay came with his men to the house of the chief, who, hearing of his arrival, got out of bed to receive him. He was shot dead as he was dressing himself. Two of his people in the house shared his fate, and his wife, shamefully treated by the soldiers, died next day. At another hamlet called Auchnaion, the tacksman and his family received a volley of shot as they were sitting by their fireside, and all but one were laid dead or dying on the floor. The survivor entreated to be killed in the open air, and there succeeded in making his escape. There were similar scenes at all the other inhabited places in the glen, and before daylight, thirty-eight persons had been murdered. The rest of the people, including the chief’s eldest son, fled to the mountains, where many of them are believed to have perished. When Colonel Hamilton came at breakfast-time, he found one old man alive mourning over the bodies of the dead; and this person, though he might have been even formally exempted as above seventy, was slain on the spot. The only remaining duty of the soldiers was to burn the houses and harry the country. This was relentlessly done, two hundred horses, nine hundred cattle, and many sheep and goats, being driven away.

A letter of Dalrymple, dated from London the 5th March, makes us aware that the Massacre of Glencoe was already making a sensation there. It was said that the people had been murdered in their beds, after the chief had made the required submission. The secretary professed to have known nothing of the last fact, but he was far from regretting the bloodshed. ‘All I regret is that any of the sect got away.’ When the particulars became fully known – when it was ascertained that the Campbells had gone into the glen as friends, and fallen upon the people when they were in a defenceless state and when all suspicion was lulled asleep – the transaction assumed the character which it has ever since borne in the public estimation, as one of the foulest in modern history.

Aug. 13. – The boy carrying the post-bag on its last stage from England was robbed by ‘a person mounted on horseback with a sword about him, and another person on foot with a pistol in his hand, upon the highway from Haddington to Edinburgh, near that place thereof called Jock’s Lodge [a mile from town], about ten hours of the night.’ The robbers took ‘the packet or common mail with the horse whereon the boy rode.’ The Privy Council issued a proclamation, offering a reward of a hundred pounds for the apprehension of the offenders, with a free pardon to any one of them who should inform upon the rest.

Dec. 1. – The Earl of Moray, being pursued at law for a tradesman’s account, which was referred to is oath, craved the Court of Session to appoint a commission to take his oath at Dunnibrissle, on the ground that, if he were obliged to come to Edinburgh for the purpose, he should incur as much expense as the whole amount of the alleged debt. As Dunnibrissle is visible from Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth, this must be looked upon as an eccentrically economical movement on his lordship’s part. The court granted the commission, but ordained his lordship to pay any expense which might be incurred by the debtor, or his representative, in travelling to Dunnibrissle to be present at the oath-taking. – Foun. Dec.


Feb. 2. – Though Scotland had long enjoyed the services of four universities, the teaching of any of the natural sciences was not merely unknown in the country, but probably undreamed of, till the reign of Charles II. The first faint gleam of scientific teaching presents itself about 1676, when, under the fostering care of Dr (afterwards Sir) Robert Sibbald, a botanic garden* was established near the Trinity College Church, as a means of helping the medical men of Edinburgh to a better knowledge of the pharmacopœia. It was put under the care of James Sutherland, who had been a common gardener, but whose natural talents had raised him to a fitness for this remarkable position. In his little garden in the valley on the north side of the city, he taught the science of herbs to students of medicine for small fees, receiving no other encouragement besides a salary from the city of twenty pounds, which did not suffice to pay rent and servants’ wages, not to speak of the cost of new plants. At the time of the siege of Edinburgh Castle in the spring of 1689, it had been thought necessary, for strategic reasons, to drain the North Loch, and, as the water ran through the Botanic Garden, it came to pass that the place was for some days under an inundation, and when left dry, proved to be covered with mud and rubbish, so that the delicate and costly plants which Sutherland had collected were nearly all destroyed. It had cost him and his assistants the work of a whole season to get the ground cleared, and he had incurred large charges in replacing the plants.

At this date, the Privy Council, on Sutherland’s petition, took into consideration his losses, his inadequate salary, and the good service he was rendering, ‘whereby not only the young physicians, apothecaries, and chirurgeons, but also the nobility and gentry, are taught the knowledge of the herbs, and also a multitude of plants, shrubs, and trees are cultivated which were never known in this nation before, and more numerous than in any other garden in Britain, as weel for the honour of the place as for the advantage of the people.’ They therefore declared that they will in future allow Mr Sutherland fifty pounds a year out of fines falling to them, one half for expenses of the garden, and the other half by way of addition to his salary.

Apr. 11. – A great number of the smaller lairds of Fife were Jacobite; among the rest, David Boswell of Balmouto. On the other hand, the Earl of Leven, one of the nobility of the county, stood high in office under the Revolution government. Besides a general quarrel with the earl on this ground, Balmouto had probably some private cause of offence to exasperate him; but on this point we only have conjecture.

At the date noted, there was a horse-race at the county town, Cupar; and both gentlemen attended. It is alleged that Balmouto first waited near a house in the town where the earl was, in expectation of his coming forth, but afterwards went away to the race-ground. There, as the earl was quietly riding about, Balmouto came up to him behind his back, and struck him twice or thrice over the head and shoulders with a baton. On his lordship turning to defend himself, the assailant struck the horse on the face and caused it to rear dangerously. Balmouto then fired a pistol at the earl without effect, and was immediately seized by the bystanders, and prevented from doing further mischief.

In a debate before the Privy Council on this case, after hearing representations from both parties, it was held that the earl’s complaint was proved, while an attempt of Balmouto to make out a counter-charge of assault against Lord Leven was declared to have failed. Balmouto was obliged to beg the earl’s pardon on his knees, and, on pain of imprisonment, give caution for future good-behaviour.

On the ensuing 13th of March 1694, Balmouto is found representing to the Council that ‘his misfortune has been so great, that his friends are unwilling to interest themselves in his liberation, whereby his family is in hazard to be ruined and himself to die in prison;’ and he craved that they would accept his personal obligation and allow him his liberty. The Earl of Leven having concurred in desiring this, the petition was complied with. – P. C. R.

June 14. – To promote the making of linen in Scotland, an act was passed in 1686 ordaining that ‘no corps of any persons whatsoever be buried in any shirt, sheet, or anything else except in plain linen,’ the relatives of deceased persons being obliged, under heavy penalties, to come to their parish minister within eight days of the burial and declare on oath that the rule had been complied with. Another act was now passed, ordaining that, for the same end, no lint should be exported from the kingdom; that lint imported should be duty free; and making sundry arrangements for a uniformity in the breadth of the cloth produced. There was likewise still another act conferring particular privileges on two companies which carried on the linen manufacture in Paul’s Work, Edinburgh, and in the Citadel of Leith, as an encouragement which was required for their success.


Apr. 20. – Till this day, it could not be said that Great Britain had wholly submitted to William and Mary. For nearly three years past, one small part of it – situated within one-and-twenty miles of the capital of Scotland – had held out for King James; and it only now yielded upon good terms for the holders. This was the more remarkable, as the place was no ancestral castle, resting on the resources of a great lord, but, in reality, one of the state fortresses, which fortune had thrown into the hands of a few bold spirits, having no sort of authority to take or retain possession of it.

The place in question was that singular natural curiosity, the islet of the Bass, situated a couple of miles off the coast of East Lothian, in the mouth of the Firth of Forth. As well known, while rising a column of pure trap straight out of the sea, it shelves down on one side to a low cliff, where there is a chain of fortifications, with a difficult landing-place underneath. the late government had employed this fortalice as a state-prison, chiefly for troublesome west-country clergymen. After the Revolution, the new government sent some of Dundee’s officers to undergo its restraints. On the 15th of June 1691, while most of the little garrison were employed outside in landing coal, four of these prisoners, named Middleton, Halyburton, Roy, and Dunbar, closed the gates and took possession of the fortress. Next evening, they were joined by Crawford, younger of Ardmillan, with his servant and two Irish seamen. The Privy Council at Edinburgh was greatly enlarged, but it had no means of reducing the place. It could only put a guard on the shore to prevent intercourse with the land, and make a couple of armed boats cruise about to intercept marine communications.

Months elapsed. The Jacobite garrison led a merry life amidst the clouds of sea-birds which were their only associates. There was no lack of stirring adventure. Young Ardmillan went off in a boat and brought in a load of provisions. Others contrived to join them, till they were sixteen men in all. A Dutch galliot came under their guns one day, ignorant of what had happened, and was sacked of all it contained. Predatory boat-parties, which went out by night, laid all the coast between the Tyne and the Tay under contribution. The government, for a time, seemed powerless. The island was too far from the land to be thence bombarded; ships’ cannon could not mark at its cliff-built towers. The garrison, having plenty of ammunition, were on their own part formidable. After an ineffectual beleaguerment of upwards of two years, a small war-vessel called the Lion, with a dogger of six guns, and a large boat from Kirkcaldy, came to cruise off the island; but by this time their friends in France were interested in their welfare, and in August 1693, a frigate of twelve guns came up to the Bass and anchored under its cannon. At sight of it, the government vessels disappeared. Large succours were thus given. Some months after, a Dunkirk privateer came in like manner, but was attacked by the Lion, and beaten.

The only very painful occurrence for the besieged was the seizure of a person named Trotter, who had supplied them with provisions. To frighten them, his execution was ordered to take place at Castleton, in sight of the isle. While the preparations were making, a shot from the Bass broke up the assemblage, but did not prevent the sacrifice being made at another place.

It was not till the spring of this year that the measures of the government for cutting off supplies from the Bass began sensibly to tell upon the besieged. When reduced to a point near starvation, and treating with the enemy, Middleton and his companions contrived still to appear well off and full of good spirits. When the commissioners came to the rock, the governor gave them what appeared a hearty lunch of French wine and fine biscuit, telling them to eat and drink freely, as there was no scarcity of provisions. On their departure, he had the walls bristling with old muskets, with hats and coats, as if there had been a large garrison. the consequence was that the cavaliers of the Bass finally came off with life, liberty, and property – even with payment of their arrears of ailment as prisoners – and, it is needless to say, the unmixed admiration and gratitude of the friends of King James.

July 10. – We get an idea of what was at this time considered a fair price for land in proportion to rent in Scotland, from a case now before the Court of Session. Sir John Clerk of Penicuik and Archibald Primrose of Dalmeny had bought the baronies of Nicolson and Lasswade at a roup or auction, the one estate at twenty-four, the other at twenty-two years’ purchase, which they afterwards represented as ‘a dear rate.’ There being a doubt as to the party who should receive the price, the purchasers would have to pay six per cent. on the purchase money, by way of interest, until that point was settled, while only realising about four per cent. for their outlay: hence they applied to the court for leave to consign the money – which was refused.


*  This is the Physic Garden described in Chapter 46 of Grant’s ‘Old and New Edinburgh’ (1880).
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