Wm. C. McDougall recounts the background of the Radical Rising and the Battle of Bonnymuir in the “Springburn Pioneer News,” 1946-47.
After the transportation of Thomas Muir of Huntershill in 1795, other members of the Friends of the People Conventions enforcement of the Militia (Conscription) Ballot Act and a new body, The United Scotsmen, emerged. Carstairs School was burned and the Parish Registers used for the Draft were stolen and hidden. Similar demonstrations are recorded at Tranent and Prestonpans, at Castle Menzies in Perthshire and against the Duke of Atholl.
A National Convention met every seven weeks. David Black, Dunfermline, and James Paterson, who supported the Irish Rising of 1797, were transported. In 1800 William Maxwell was imprisoned, and in 1802 Thomas Wilson, Perth, was banished.
In the depression after the Napoleonic Wars, the struggle was continued by Andrew McKinlay (see William Stewart’s “Two Glasgow Weavers”) and James Wilson of Strathaven. It was Wilson who owned the famous old flag bearing the words: “Scotland Free – or a Desert.” On the scaffold on 30th August, 1820, he declared: “I die a patriot.” To secure his conviction an English barrister Hullock had to be introduced into the Court sitting in Glasgow: a breach of the Treaty of Union.
John Baird and Andrew Hardie, two Glasgow weavers, marched out by Condorrat and Castle Cary with about 80 volunteers. They wished to establish a Provisional Government. They had not actually decided to use violence; but at Bonnymuir they were attacked by Hussars from Stirling Castle. They resisted, and most of them were killed or wounded. Baird and Hardie were executed at Broad Street, Stirling, on 8th September, 1820.
‘Inverness Courier,’ 20th April, 1820, p.4.
T. Phelan, Barrhead, has claimed want rather than Nationalism motivated the 1820 Rising. The banner “Scotland Free – or a Desert” is described in Peter McKenzie’s “Reminiscences of Glasgow,” Vol. I.