338 years ago on 22nd July Richard Cameron, whae wis ane o the maist important Covenanters, had his D day.
Why ah’m a tellin ye this? … Weel he features in ma 2nd book ‘Dark Times’ which ah hope ye’ll want tae read when it appears. Cameron’s kent as the ‘Lion o the Covenant’ Gies ye a clue whit he wis like. A wee tad radical … Naw totally radical and that convinced he wis richt that arguin wi him wis oot the question.
Some o the things he got up tae scare me witless. He certainly wis as brave as they come.
The Cameronian regiment wis cawed aifter him an very prood o that.
He wis also a great preacher, that guid he drew crowds o ower a thoosand on several occasions tae his open air meetings. Can ye see that happenin the day? Dinna answer.
Ye also huv tae mind he wis dain aw this when it wis illegal tae preach lik that an illegal tae go an hear a sermon oot in the open insteid o in a kirk as approved by the government. If caught ye cud be fined, or tortured, or even shot…. Quite a few paid a penalty so folk musta wantit tae hear him. He wis kent as ‘God’s moothpiece’ quite a compliment for a man in his twenties. This photo shows him on horseback giein it laldy.
He wis born in this hoose in the photo, in the Fife village o Falkland, the son o a merchant an weel brocht up. He went tae Saint Andrews University, comin awa wi a Masters o Arts degree so he wis a brainy cheel.
At first he worked as a schoolmaister alang wi an Episcopalian curate but that didna last long. He wis soon involved wi the Presbyterians, took tae the preachin lik a duck tae watter an travelled aboot the south-west o Scotland for a while afore goin ower tae Holland whaur his fiery passion really taen aff. He wis ordained there, in Rotterdam, then came back tae challenge the problems he’d left ahint in Scotland.
He wis totally agin everythin Charles 11 claimed for the crown, totally against the Privy Council an the great Lords whae governed the land on behalf o the king.
Ah think ye can guess he wis in for a difficult time.
Strangely enough Richard Cameron wisna even in Scotland at the time o Bothwell Brig he wis in Holland, probably reflectin on the strange providence that hud taen him oot his beleagered country for the first time in his life.
Here he came under the influence o anither, aulder, mair senior meenister McWard whae’d urge him tae become the lion, tae become the witness tae the truth and save the country’s conscience afore it wis too late.
Hooivver, McWard hud nae intention o dain this himsel. He’d bide in Holland, safe an soond, behavin lik a puppet master pooin the strings.
First Cameron needed tae be ordained. This taen place in the Scottish kirk in Rotterdam in late July 1679. It followed the traditional practice o layin hands on the candidate’s heid in token o his investment in the office o the ministery. It still happens the day in the Church o Scotland..
At this point thur wis a strange happenin. Maister McWard hud a sudden vision o the future, so vivid that it taen him awa frae whaur he wis an landed him on an Ayrshire moorland in the future, a year aheid on a day in July 1680. He seemed in a trance fur a guid few meenits an ivverythin stopped till he opened his een again. Aw this is recorded as havin happened so weird as it is ah dinna doubt it.
Finally he turned tae the watchers and cawed oot “Behold aw ye, here is the heid o a faithfu meenister an servant o Christ whae shall lose the same for his maister’s interest, an it’ll be set up afore the sun an moon in the public view o the world.” Scary stuff.
A prediction lik this wud hae pit maist folk aff but Cameron … naw. He wis awa hame only a few weeks later, arrivin at Newcastle an makin his way tae south-west Scotland whaur he did a bit o preachin an learnt hoo dangerous it wis, hoo he’d huv tae hide frae the troopers noo scourin the countryside fur the likes o him.
Undeterred he began a roond o visits tae mony meenisters whae hud kept thur heids doon since the defeat at Bothwell. They wur aw hopin if they kept thur noses clean thur wud be nae mair arrests, or torture, or hangin.
Cameron tried tae persuade them tae join in his intention tae field preach, tried tae convince them that this wis the way furrit, tae rouse the folk tae mair resistance against the government.
Nane wud hae it so he cursed them an turned his back on them aw an set oot tae dae it himsel. He wis that determined …. An he did.
This bit appears in ‘Dark Times’ an gies ye a feel o the man himsel.
Cameron taks aff on his field preachin mission. Ane ither preacher, an aulder man, Donald Cargill, agreed wi him on jist aboot ivvery aspect an joined in wi Cameron’s plans fur field preachin. Sometimes they wur thegither or they’d travel in the opposite direction tae try an reach as mony folk as possible.
They baith covered great distances maistly across the south o Scotland. No the easiest terrain tae journey on wi rough moors, an hills, an bogs, an few roads. Apart frae the effort o jist goin tae as mony places thur safety wis aye at risk fur the govenment hud a constant number o troopers scourin the country on the look oot for onythin suspicious.
Ane o Cameron’s problems wis his popularity. Ay, it helped huvin folk willin tae hide him, gie him a bed fur the nicht as weel as feedin him but some got that cairried awa wi him an his preachin that they stertit tae accompany him on his travels frae place tae place. Gradually he hud a big group alang wi him, some on horseback, some walkin. As thur numbers increased it got easier fur them tae be seen, tae be spied on an talked aboot. Much mair dangerous fur them aw. He hud a gid few narra escapes.
Ye’ll mibbe mind Lucas Brotherstone the meenister iin ‘Changed Times,’ weel he’s involved in aw this. No that he’s muckle help. Mibbe ah shudna gie that awa.
Ye’ll notice in this photo that while the meenister is preachin in the open air thur’s at least twa lookoots …. jist in case.
Later when the Cameronian regiment wur at thur devotions they aye hud four pickets posted. Afore the service cud stert the pickets wud need tae report if aw wis clear. This went on richt up till the regiment wis dismanded in the 1960’s. Auld habits die hard.
Cameron wis a powerfu preacher, very direct but peruasive in his delivery which hud folk listenin an agreein wi him. In nae time he wis gainin mair an mair support.
Nixt thing he taks his plan fur resistance a stage further.
22nd June 1680 alang wi twenty followers he rides intae the wee toun o Sanquhar in Ayrshire an fixes a declaration on the merkat cross. Ye’ll note the date … the anniversary o Bothwell Brig. Very symbolic.
The declaration denounced King Charles an the government in the strongest language, left the king an government in nae doubt. as tae thur failins
When the Privy Council heard aboot the declaration they wur in a richt lather, declared that Cameron wis guilty o high treason an pit up a bounty o 5,000 merkson him … deid or alive.
No that this stopped sic a determined man. He kept goin. But lik ah said earlier things are hottin up fur Cameron. Few folk wur willin tae betray him but the temptation must hae been strong wi 5,000 merks reward fur his capture.
The government troops stertit tae search frae Clydesdale intae Nithsdale an Galloway, westwards tae Cumnock an Ayr. A huge, wild area wi the roughest o terrain an whiles no the best o weather. Come whit may they wur determined tae catch him
The Earl o Airlie an his troops wis oot ivverywhaur followin each reported sightin but somehoo they either arrived ower late or he wisna there.
Extra spies an informers wur recruited, an the hale area wis pit unner martial law which wi far frae pleasant fur the locals.
It got that desperate that the great General Tam Dayell himsel left his base in Edinburgh an moved tae Lanark tae supervise the operation. Three weeks passed withoot success. Cameron wis still free.
Gradually Cameron gied up tryin tae travel wi as few numbers as possible. The way things wur goin folk tellt him that mibbe thur wis safety in numbers.
Aifter a sermon at Kypewater near Lesmahagow he hud as mony as twentythree horse riders an mair than forty on foot followin him. Mair than sixty on the move is hard tae hide but his supporters insisted this wis the best way furrit. They seemd tae believe a confrontation wi the government wis comin an the mair ready tae defend the man the better. Thur’s mair aboot it in ma second book ‘Dark Times.’
Mair information on his movements came in, mair chasin taen place but still he remained free. Aboot noo he wis joined wi ane o his strongest supporters, Hackston o Rathillet. He’d been a fierce fighter at Bothwell as weel as ane o the nine wi murdered Archbishop Sharpe on Magus muir on 3 May 1679. Sharpe hud a terrible death but in truth he wis also a man mair than askin fur it aifter the way he’d tortured as mony he believed wur Covenanters. It wis definitely if ye’re nae wi me ye’re agin me. Hackston is important ye’ll se why the morn. Ye’ll also see hoo mibbe Karma dis exist.
Durin his field preachin Cameron wud gie communion tae those as wantit it, baptised mony a bairn, conducted a few weddins, as weel as gien a rousin sermon. Aw in the open air amang the heather an the moorland. No quite hoo we dae things nooadays.
When he left Kypewatter he headed for Sorn in Ayrshire an lodged at Meadowhead Farm north o Sorn wi a strong supporter William Mitchell an his family.
Meanwhile his supporters wur exercisin, gettin ready fur the confrontation they thocht wis aboot tae tak place.
His supporters wur jittery fur they’d heard somebody hud gied awa thur location. Because o that they’d spent the nicht on the moor an in the mornin checked aw roond tae see if thur wis ony movement. Aw wis clear.
As Cameron left Meadowhead farm the daughter o the hoose brocht him water tae wash his face an hands. When he wis feenished he luked at his haunds an is reported as sayin, “I hae need tae mak them clean fur there are mony tae see them.”
Oot on the moor aw seemed quiet an the 60 or so men set oot towards Muirkirk. Naethin went wrang an they made guid progress, arrivin at a spot kent as Airds Moss in the aifternoon. They stopped there fur a bit tae eat an a rest when a local shepherd appeared wi the warnin, “Troopers ken whaur ye are an are comin.”
An so they wur. Within meenits a mounted force cud be seen in the distance.
A few men wantit tae scatter but Cameron wis hain nane o it an his strong supporter Hackston began organisin a defence.
He picked the edge o a mossy marsh an lined them up tae face the enemy. Ye’ll mibbe mind a marsh helped the Covenanters at Drumclog.
Thur wis a quick prayer endin wi, “Spare the green an tak the ripe.” This is a favaorite quote frae Cameron.The government leader wis Andrew Bruce o Earshall. Years before he’d been a neighbour o the Cameron family an kent them weel so he’d nae difficulty in kennin which ane o the rebels wis Richard Cameron.
Twenty dragoons attacked the flank o Cameron’s party. Hackston saw this an sent some men tae meet them while the rest advanced on the main government force.
A few shots wur fired an then baith sides got entangled in the marsh. The riders wur forced tae dismount. It wis haund tae haund and fierce. Later Bruce wud describe the rebels as, “‘Fightin lik mad men.”
This went on fur aboot hauf an hoor afore Bruce’s better equipped men got the upper haund, killed Cameron an his brither Michael an the heart went oot o the rebels.
9 Covenanters an 28 troopers wur deid … So the rebels a gied guid accoont o thursels. The rest o the rebels scarpered across the moor leavin the deid an 4 captives. An important ane wis Hackston. He’d mair than git his come uppance, endin hanged, drawn, an quartered in the Edinburgh Grassmarket. Mibbe auld Archbishop Sharpe hud the last laugh on his murder … Or mibbe it wis Karma.
Cameron’s heid an haunds wur cut aff, bagged an cairried awa as the proof necessary fur the reward o 5,000 merks. His heid an haunds eventually landed on top o the Netherbow in Edinburgh as a warnin tae ony ithers plannin rebellion. So he wis richt … Mony did see his face an haunds. Hackston’s heid an haunds sat alangside. A sorry sicht indeed.
Ye’ll read mair aboot this episode in book twa ‘Dark Times.’
Aifter this the only ither field preacher on the loose wis Donald Cargill … He got captured an then hanged an the Covenanters wur left withoot ony leader. At least they wur till anither came on the scene.
Ye see thur’s aye anither yin.
He wis James Renwick, jist as determined as Cameron. But his story is fur anither day. He appears in book three ‘End o Times.’
So that’s that … The Lion o the Covenant’s deid but nivver forgotten, still remembered, talked aboot, argued aboot, written aboot. Whit he did wisna jist pairt o oor heritage it still maitters the day.
Airds Moss memorial. This lets ye see hoo desolate a spot it really is.