The Killing Times

Text © Copyright Gordon Brown, January 2008
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


In Scotland in 1638, the National Covenant set out the belief that there should be no interference by kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Covenanters, as they were known, were Scots who signed the National Covenant. However, the Stuart kings believed in the Divine Right of Kings – amongst other things, they believed that they were the spiritual heads of the Church of Scotland. The Covenanters and their supporters could not and would not accept this; no man, not even a king, could be spiritual head of their church. The Covenanters fiercely believed that only Jesus Christ could be spiritual head of a Christian church.

One of the co-authors of the national Covenant:
NT2573 : Grave of Alexander Henderson, Greyfriars Kirkyard by kim traynor Alexander Henderson

NT7854 : The Covenanter's Stone on Duns Law by Walter Baxter In 1639 a Scottish army under General Leslie raised the standard of the National Covenant at Duns Law

The entire Covenanting struggle was built around this conflict of beliefs – people against king. King Charles I had introduced the Book of Common Prayer to Scotland in 1637, to the anger and resentment of the populace. Famously, Jenny Geddes, at the first introduction of the new liturgy, is reported to have stood up in church, thrown her stool at the priest and shouted out Dare ye say mass in ma lug? That particular service was abandoned. Trouble and resentment continued under Charles I. After his beheading, under the Protectorate support for Cromwell waxed and waned within the Scottish Church. However, when Charles II landed at Garmouth in Moray in Scotland in 1650, he went on to sign the National Covenant, to the delight of the Scots. He was crowned King (of Scotland) at Scone in 1651. However, it was not until after Cromwell’s death that Charles took, in 1660, the crown of Great Britain. But Charles II went back on his word to the Scots and assumed superiority over the church. He appointed bishops and declared that opposition to the new liturgy would be treason. The Scots would have been loyal to this member of the Stuart dynasty but for that one sticking point. From 1638, when the Covenant was signed, until 1688 when Prince William of Orange made a bloodless invasion of Great Britain, a great deal of death, torture, imprisonment, and transportation would follow. These times, particularly between 1680 and 1688, became known as The Killing Times.

Because of the fundamental conflict in beliefs the Covenanters were obliged to hold their religious services in secret, and these services were known as Conventicles, held in out of the way places, often in the moors.

NT1612 : Upper Moffat Dale by arthur Look-out point for conventicles,
NS8962 : Peden's Stane by James Allan NS8962 : Peden's Stane by Stuart McLean Conventicle site where Alexander Peden preached,
NS9055 : Covenanters Monument near Darmead Linn by Chris Wimbush Site of conventicle,
NS7135 : The Covenanters Monument at Auchengilloch by Gordon Brown Auchengilloch, conventicle site
NT0512 : A view towards the Devil's Beeftub by Liz 'n' Jim The Devil's Beeftub
NS7178 : The Covenanter's Cave, Garrel Glen by Robert Murray The Covenanter's Cave, Garrel Glen
NS9412 : Peden's Stone by Peden Reservoir by Walter Baxter Peden's Stone by Peden Reservoir
NY3486 : Peden's View by Walter Baxter Peden's View
NX6580 : Holy Linn Waterfall by Walter Baxter Holy Linn Waterfall

NX2298 : The Covenanters Hid Here by Mary and Angus Hogg and hiding places!

If a Scot was found under suspicious circumstances by the troops, he could be asked on the spot to swear allegiance to the King; if he was also found to be carrying a bible his life was immediately in danger. The moors of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire (and elsewhere) hold many memorials to Covenanters killed on the spot by suspicious troops. Some of the martyrs’ graves and memorials:

NY8292 : Pepperpot by Andy Stephenson Alexander Padon,
NS7331 : John Brown Monument by Richard Webb John Brown,
HY5708 : Covenanters' Memorial, Deerness by David Wyatt Deerness memorial (200 Covenanters drowned when their prison ship was wrecked,
NT5585 : View towards Bass Rock and lighthouse of North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland by Liz 'n' Jim and NT5585 : Rev. John Blackadder's tombstone by kim traynor Reverend John Blackadder and others on the Bass Rock
NX2299 : Old Dailly Church by paul c NX2299 : A Covenanters memorial in Old Dailly Churchyard by Walter Baxter Old Dailly church with the graves of 5 Covenanters,
NS7347 : The Martyr's Grave by Gordon Brown William Gordon of Earlston
NS7837 : The Martyr's Grave by Gordon Brown David Steel,
NS5919 : A martyr's grave by Walter Baxter John McGeachan
NS6612 : Covenanter Monument near Waistland by Chris Wimbush George Corson and John Hair,
NX9079 : The Martyrs' Tomb by Walter Baxter Two Covenanters,
NX2381 : Martyrs' Tomb by James Allan John Murchie and Daniel Mieklewrick ,
NS6725 : The Martyr's Grave by Mary and Angus Hogg William Adam,
NO4515 : Covenanters' stone, east face by Jim Bain Thomas Brown, James Wood, Andrew Sword, John Weddell and John Clyde,
NX6070 : Auchencloy Monument. by Bob Peace Auchencloy (‘Black’ James McMichael and 3 or 4 others murdered here by Claverhouse in 1684,
NX2472 : Linn's Tomb by Mark McKie Alex Linn,
NS7993 : Monument to Margaret Wilson (a Wigtown Martyr) by Lairich Rig Margaret Wilson,
NX6048 : A Covenanter's Grave by Colin Brown Robert McWhae
NS5751 : Covenanters' memorial by Kenneth Mallard Robert Lockhart and Gabriel Thomson
NT1024 : The martyr's grave at Tweedsmuir Kirkyard by Walter Baxter John Hunter,
NX1485 : Covenanter's Gravestone Colmonell by Keith Brown Matthew Millraith,
NX3978 : Covenanters Grave, Caldons by David Baird James and Robert Duns, Thomas and John Stevensons, James McClive, Andrew McCall
NT0612 : monument at Devil's Beef Tub by Kevin Rae NX4355 : Martyr's Stake, Wigtown by Kirsty Smith NT0752 : Covenanter's Grave by Callum Black NS2911 : Covenanters Memorial by wfmillar NS8154 : Monument to unknown soldier by Chris Wimbush NX7266 : Covenanter's Gravestone (rear), Crossmichael Churchyard by James Bell Unknown Covenanters,
NS8903 : The martyr's grave at Durisdeer Church by Walter Baxter NS8903 : The martyr's grave at Durisdeer Church by Walter Baxter Daniel McMichael
NS3321 : The Covenanters' Gravestone by Mary and Angus Hogg Seven martyrs who died at Ayr
NT2573 : Martyr's Monument, Grassmarket by Tom Sargent Martyr's Monument, Grassmarket, Edinburgh
NS6826 : The Covenanters Monument by Mary and Angus Hogg Covenanters' Monument, Muirkirk, Ayrshire
NS7809 : Sanquhar Declarations Obelisk by Colin Smith Richard Cameron
NS8843 : Gravestone of William Harvey, a Covenanter by Lairich Rig William Harvey
NS7177 : Francis Gordon's gravestone, Kilsyth Burns and Old Parish Church by Becky Williamson Francis Gordon
NS5337 : An obelisk in Loudoun Parish Churchyard by Walter Baxter 10 Loudoun parishioners
NX7791 : The James Renwick Monument at Moniaive by Walter Baxter The Rev James Renwick
NS7993 : James Guthrie statue, Old Town Cemetery by kim traynor The Rev James Guthrie
NS9738 : Monument to Patrick Cargill by Liz 'n' Jim The Rev Patrick Cargill
NO1415 : Rev. John Welwood's grave, Dron by Becky Williamson The Rev John Welwood
NS2911 : Covenanters' Memorial, Cargilston by Becky Williamson Mungo Eccles, Thomas Horne, Robert McGarron, John McHarrie, John McWhirter and William Rodger
NS3804 : Thomas McHaffie's gravestones by Becky Williamson Thomas McHaffie
NS5234 : Ruins at East Threepwood, near Galston by Becky Williamson James Smith
NS5636 : Knowe Farm by Becky Williamson John Richmond
NS6612 : A monument for two Covenanters near Waistland by Walter Baxter John Grierson and Robert Stewart
NS6775 : Martyrs' memorial by Richard Webb John Wharry and James Smith
NS3408 : The Story Behind Gilbert McAdam's Death by Mary and Angus Hogg Gilbert McAdam
NO3714 : Covenanters Gravestone, Cupar Kirkyard by kim traynor Laur Hay, Andrew Pitulloch who David Hackston



There were many pitched battles between the Covenanters and troops of the King, led by the (in)famous Claverhouse (Bonnie Dundee or Bluidy Clavers, depending on which side of the religious divide you were on):
NS7157 : Monument on the south end of Bothwell Bridge by Elliott Simpson Battle of Bothwell Bridge
NS6425 : Conventicle at Airdsmoss by Robert Guthrie Battle of Airds Moss,
NS6239 : Memorial to the Battle of Drumclog by Gordon Brown Battle of Drumclog,
NJ5716 : The Gordon Stone by ronnie leask Battle of Alford
NM8026 : Gylen Castle by Walter Baxter Gylen Castle


Not all deaths were on the Covenanters’ side during the Killing Times:
NO4515 : Archbishop James Sharp's pyramid by Jim Bain Archbishop James Sharp,
NS6641 : The Trumpeter's Well by Gordon Brown The Trumpeter’s Well
NM8026 : Gylen Castle by Euan Nelson the Royalist MacDougalls at Gylen Castle
NT4229 : Newark Castle by ronnie leask Newark Castle, the scene of the murder of Royalist prisoners after the Battle of Philiphaugh


One of the suppressors of the Covenanters:
NX9283 : Grierson of Lag Grave by Chris Newman One of Claverhouse’s supporters, Sir Robert Grierson of Lag

NS6594 : James Ure's grave, Old graveyard, Kippen by Becky Williamson And one of the survivors, James Ure,an Episcopalian minister who left that faith to follow Presbyterianism and became a Covenanter

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