Battle of Drumclog 1st June 1679

farmview copy Early in the morning of 1st June 1679 John Steel and his family set out from this peaceful farming scene for a prayer meeting at Drumclog, near Loudon Hill. It would prove an eventful day. For many who’d attend life was about to change forever. For John maybe more than most. In ‘Changed Times’ you’ll read all about Drumclog and how it affected John.
Loudon Hill is a volcanic peculiarity not far from the town of Strathaven and a landmark for miles around. The spot chosen for this prayer meeting was at Drumclog, close to here, almost on a road from Srathaven so not the wisest or most secret place. Since prayer meeting were illegal it was important not to be caught … or was it?
loudon3.jpg  John Graham of Claverhouse hears about the meeting and sets out from Strathaven to deal with the matter. Leading a platoon he assumes he’s nothing to do but round up the prayerful and march them to justice.
It didn’t quite work out that way. For a start he was heavily outnumbered and the prayerful had attitude, big time. They did invite the troopers to join them in prayer otherwise … clear off.


Incensed Graham ordered his men to charge. Unfortunately for Graham there was a stretch of bog between the troopers and the prayerful  …. The military horse stumbled in the mud, began to sink.covtroops6 Panic ensued while the prayerful jumped from tussock to tussock in the bog and picked off the helpless. It grew worse when more of the prayerful began to cross, firing muskets as they came. More troopers fell, one shot just missed Graham and killed his young cousin Cornet Graham.
Time for a swift exit. Graham grabbed the young man’s horse galloped off, holding it alongside his own horse. He was hotly pursued, almost caught, his pursuer coming close enough to sink his sword into Graham’s horse. Instead of falling the beast went into a frenzy and ran on for another mile johgraham copy 3before collapsing. Graham jumped across to the other horse and continued his flight …. all the way  to Glasgow.
That night he’d write a very careful letter to the Privy Council justifying what happened.
Now he was a man in need of revenge …. Within weeks he’d have that revenge and more.
battlescene.jpg Take a look at this photo  ….. It’s the scene of the battle. Doesn’t look much today. The dip in the middle is where the boggy ground is found
… I suspect that’s what really won the battle.
The prayerful were now jubilant although some of their own had been killed. You’ll find memorials to them in Stonehouse and Lesmahagow Old Parish Church graveyard. The success over Graham had the prayerful  believing themselves invincible. As news got out about their victory support flowed in. They decided it was time to march against the government.
That’s when everything began to go wrong, very wrong…. The stark consequences of this decision would be felt in Scotland for years. Changed Times explains the trigger.closememorial
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Black Bull Inn Moffat


John Graham lived in relative comfort in the Black Bull while he and his armed platoons scoured the surrounding  moors for rebels. In the south of Scotland he earned his nick name Bluidy Clavers which still sticks today. I do wonder how well he deserves it. He was a man of his time. They thought diffe johgraham copy 3rently, had different values then. He certainly was a faithful servant to both Charles 11 and later his brother James and took his duties very seriously, and yes many a rebel suffered or was killed on his watch.
Many blame him for being anti-Covenanter. This is somewhat misplaced. He was anti those who were agin the king … end of. He couldn’t have been truly anti-presbyterian for his wife came from a well known Covenanting family. Mind you they were anti-Clavers and cut her off without the proverbial shilling after her marriage.
Early in his career in Holland he saved the Duke of Orange’s life during a battle. Later he joined the english court as a mercenary, quickly proving his military ability, becoming a favourite as a straight talking man who got things done and didn’t suffer fools gladly. This of course led to many of the great and the good taking against him … Not that he seemed to care. He had the king’s ear.  That mattered.
At the end of his career he died fighting the forces of the same man whose life he saved many years before … What comes around comes to mind.
In ‘Changed Times’ my main character John Steel encounters John Graham and soon discovers how clever and dangerous a man he can be…..


Today the Black Bull is a pleasant hotel and proud of its Claverhouse
connection. However the plaque outside only attracts the extra curious among the many tourists who stop off in the town of Moffat otherwise they stream past on the ever present hunt for a real tourist experience.
In Clavers time Moffat was an established market town, dependent on local activities to sustain its businesses nothing like the the bonnie spot where tour buses now stop … It’s Tuesday so it’s Scotland.  Lets have a pee, enjoy a meal then stretch our legs up and down the double-sided main street, maybe even buy a souvenir, preferably tartan. What’s the next stop?  How many take away the faintest idea of the real place. How many even notice that plaque let alone wonder who he was … A man whose name and influence still reverberate through history to influence the present day. Bonnie Dundee indeed. I’m rather fond of him …. dangerous talk indeed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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Fact or Fiction?

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John Steel a special character

The story of Changed Times is mostly carried by a character called John Steel. He is, was fact, was a farmer who lived near Lesmahagow and is buried in Lesmahagow Old Parish Churchyard.
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After what is known as the Glorious Revolution – when William of Orange became the British King and Protestantism was back in force John refurbished his farmhous. This was 1707. We know this as he carved the date on the gable end of his house along with the words PRAISE GOD.We don’t know how long he lived after that nor do we know his exact resting place in the kirkyard. Why? As a modest man he was buried under what is known as a plain thruchstane – with neither name nor date.
He doesn’t merit any mention in the Covenanting Encyclopoedia  while his cousin David, who was shot as a martyr, gets much credit and is listed in all the well known reference books.
                                                                                                                                               Head of Lanark braes today

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So why is John interesting?

Well, he escaped after the Battle of Bothwell and was on the run for ten … YES ten years without ever being caught. He lost his farm, his property, wife and family forced to live rough on the moor. And that’s only for starters. He even has the crossroads at the top of Lanark Brae named after him. A spot where he nearly was caught, nearly was murdered but escaped to fight on, except at the end of the troubles he was neither bitter not sought revenge. An unusual man at any time … never mind the 17th century.
Someone like that does interest me. Someone like that fires the imaginination. He did and so my John was born and walks across the pages of all three of my books about this period. I know him so well I’d recognise him if I met him for real but I won’t because … although I have plenty research how I used it has created fiction.
Some of my other characters are based on fact too but like John I had to take those facts then imagine how and why and what they did … And then they are interwoven with the purely made up characters who are based on background reference of those types of people … great fun as well as giving a strong thread through the story which I hope becomes convincing enough to take the reader there …. and believe.

Anyway we’ll see!

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Confession … a dream

changedtimescover only copyLast night I had a dream. Not any dream, a book dream. A my book dream. Now I’m wondering if this sort of thing happens to an author, particularly a debut author with a book launch arriving on the horizon.
To explain.
I was at my first book event. Surprisingly I had an audience. It wasn’t just me and a pile the books. That should have pleased me except there wasn’t a pile, not even one book. My book was missing.. No sign of it. I panicked, stared at the expectant faces waiting to be entertained then decided to tell them about the story, spin out the intro and hope something would happen to sort out this problem.
Just then a small boy appeared with a wheelbarrow loaded with books. He trundled up to me and tipped out  … yes … a pile of books, except this lot looked unfamiliar.
I stared at the top book. The cover was pale green and showed a line of happy people tripping through an idyllic, pastoral scene. I gaped at it. I hadn’t authorised this. What the? ….. How could this prettiness have anything to do with my 17th century story about the ‘Killing Times’ ???
I dared to lift the book. God’s sake the title did say ‘Changed Times’ and my name was there. How come?
I was afraid to open the book. Rightly so. When I did the pages came out in a continuous concertina like arrangement. The more I opened the damn thing the further apart I had to stretch my arms. I’d been worried in case my readers wouldn’t like my book now my worry was how would they ever manage to read it let alone react or comment?
I looked up at the audience who smiled as if in sympathy.
I felt better then one said … “If we have to make such an effort to read your book will it be a freeby?”
I thought about all that research, all that writing, all that editing…….

All I could do was ……. mescream

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Research for ‘Changed Times’
Since my story is based on real events I needed information, hard facts before any imagining could take place. Books, documents, visits to museums, trawling the internet helped form a sort of route map. Learning about the real people involved in this traumatic period gave me ideas for some of the fictional characters, in fact they simply presented themselves and demanded to be used.
Along with all this I travelled the area,  gathering facts about flora and fauna, beasts and birds, and all the time taking photographs, scribbling notes to remind me afterwards. The moors, became almost familiar as did corners of villages I thought I knew already, except this time I was trying to see them with non modern eyes.
Sometimes it seemed to work other times I felt ridiculous. This happened when I misjudged the moorland weather, was caught up in a swirling mist, followed by a downpour which soaked meto the skin … not once but several times. Still don’t understand that changeable weather.
There was an upside though …  I could now write about it in a personal way, no need to imagine. I did know how it felt, how scary and cold it could be. I also came away with increased respect for those people’s determination and tenacity in covering miles on foot or living rough if need be.
It was all more than worthwhile.

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I was also lucky enough to have permission from Biggar Trust to spend a morning in this house, on my own, taking notes, photographing, wandering about, listening to the old house sounds, smelling the damp, examining the furniture, sitting by the fire, handling the cooking pots, bowls, ladles, spoons in the kitchen then climbing the creaking stairs to the tiny attic bedrooms to gape at the most uncomfortable looking beds I’d ever seen. And all the time trying to catch a sense of the period, the reality of living in such a place. It certainly felt as if I’d walked in and become an intruder in someones daily life, which was exactly what I was after.
This is a typical farmhouse of the period. In fact it’s rather special. Greenhill House was dismantled and carried stone by stone to Biggar to become a Covenanting House Museum.
Compared to then we live in luxury.bed copy 2
roomlayout2JPG copycovenaterbadge   Me again. John Steel. Are ye ready fur a bit mair?
Ah’ll no bore ye wi ower much seeins the author wumman hus gotten her neb in first. Ah jist wantit tae tell ye aboot ma Marion, ma guid wife. As ye can see she’s richt bonny, weel ah think sae. Mair than that she’s a feisty lass. She’s hud tae be tae survive whit happens tae us. An can ah jist say it wisna aw ma fault. She contributed tae it as weel. Mind o her ain if ye ken whit ah mean, whiles tellin me whit ah shud be dain. An of coorse ah’m no a man tae argue, weel no much, an especially no wi a wumman lik that. Ye’ll unnerstaund better as oor story unravels.
Mair comin soon.horserider copy
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Changed Times …. explanation

17th century goings on in Scotland

Changed Times is part one of a trilogy which gives the theme ‘be careful what you wish for’ a 17th century Scottish twist; a time and place where religion and politics become a lethal mix allowing scope to explore the consequences of this old adage. The story is a mix of reality and imaginings but firmly based on extensive research.

John Steel says a bit more about Changed Times

covenaterbadgeLik ah said afore Lucas Brotherstane is no quite whit he seems. He’flos the meenister in oor village an weel liked, him an his young wife. She’s a bonnie lass an kind wi it. We aw like her.
The maister, weel  he’s a kennin high minded in ma opeenion. Mind ye he’s a guid enough preacher. Aince  in yon pulpit he gaes it his aw .. haunds wavin, een starin, voice up an doon, sometimes persuadin, ither times accusin. Whiles he seems lik some prophet lecturin tae the children o Israel. That’s when ah  wunner if it’s mair fur effect, playin some pairt raither than giein us the truth as written in the Bible. Maist folk lap it up but ah’d raither hear the words richt an then think aboot it insteid o gettin cairried awa wi sic a grand  performance. Ah’ve seen him aften enough mairchin up an doon his back gairden practisin his Sunday, sermon, een shut as if he’s imaginin … an that’s whit worries me.
Whiles we huv arguments aboot his pronouncements. Tae tell the truth ah think he enjoys me tacklin him, jist as lang as we dae it in private an naebody else hears me criticisin him.

A few months back he got mair brave wi his words, moothin oot aboot  the King demandin us here in Scotland wur tae fa intae line wi England an worship the Lord in the same way. That didna gang doon weel wi the Scottish Kirk.
We aw agreed wi whit the maister said but fur masel ah thocht he cuda been a bit mair circumspect in the way he went aboot it.whitehorse

Onyway, no lang aifter a clerk arrives frae the sheriff at Lanark wi an order that he’s tae stop this speakin oot. An of course Maister Brotherstane refused. The clerk wisna pleased an warned him aboot the consequences but the maister bein the maister wudna listen an went intae his high an michty mode. That’s hoo it aw began an is wisna lucas copy copypleasant. If ye luk at this wee pictur ye can see the effect it hud on him.

horserider copy  ME. Somehoo ah got masel sucked intae whit followed. Ah felt sorry fur the man an me bein me weel…. But ye’ll need tae read aboot that tae unnerstaund whit ah mean.


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covenaterbadge17th century Scotland

BACKGROUND When Charles 11 told his Scottish kirk to change its ways and become Episcopalian he opened a proverbial can of worms in his northern kingdom.
17th century Scotland was stoutly Presbyterian. The answer was a loud no. The king insisted. The kirk refused so laws were passed to make this happen. Ministers who resisted lost their charge and were replaced by English style curates.
Resentment grew, church attendance dropped as many people began to attend secret open-air meetings and worship in their own way. These meetings were deemed illegal and labelled as conventicles. Those attending became known as covenanters, treated as rebels, open to torture or even death for their belief.

John Steel is the main character in my scottish novel Changed Times. He’s a lowland farmer. The time is 1679. Life is pleasant and comfortable but it’s about to change. His sense of right and wrong, mixed with a kind nature, will take him down the road to rebellion against his king and government.
This is John Steel in his own words-flo

Mornin. Ah unnerstaund ah’m aboot tae hae ma story tellt in a book cawed ‘Changed Times.’ Weel so it is. Ye cudna mak it up. Neither wud ah wish whit happens on ma worst enemy.  When ah luk back naethin surer but ah’d dae things a bit different.
But first things first. Ower amang the trees is ma farm. Ahint that the moor an hills. A bonny place tae be. No far frae the village o Lesmahagow  in the county o Lanark. Nooadays ye’ll see ane o they wind-mill things on the sky line. In ma day it wis different.    farmview copy
Ah hae a wife Marion, twa wee lads William an Johnnie, an the best sheep dug in the world cawed Fly. The farm’s ma ain an a rent oot anither twa which brings in extra siller. Lik ma writer says were dain aricht an lik she says it’s aboot tae chainge an no fur the better.
It aw stairts wi  oor meenister. He’s cawed Lucas Brotherstane. Nice enough man but very high minded. No in the real world if ye git ma meanin. If ye tak a luk at this wee pictur ye’ll see fur yersel.  
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Whit a bother he causes an whit a sufferin he’ll git. Ye canna but feel sorry fur him. Ye’ll  read it aw in the book but ah’ll gie ye a few hints next time ah speak tae ye. Richt noo ah’m awa, places tae go things tae dae.

Speak again soon.

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