Page images
PDF
EPUB

scribed him, “ of many parts and still perfectly clear to Macaulay, points to more virtues," who was undoubtedly the militia of Lag rather than to the in sympathy with Argyle and the regulars of Claverhouse as the heroes of refugees in Holland, but was, as every this startling form of relaxation. And one knew well, the last of men to in a work a little later than Wodrow's, have had

any share in the plots either but very similar in style and of about of the Rye House or the Assassina- equal trustworthiness, in the Biotion. He was, however, tried, con- graphia Scoticana 'of John Howie, Lag, victed, and executed on evidence which, who figures as “a prime hero for the proto borrow the words of Halifax on a moting of Satan's kingdom," is directly similar occasion, was not sufficient to named as the chief performer in these hang a dog on. Another of the revels. Such,” it is said,

was their sufferers, though he was allowed to audacious impiety, that he, with the rest keep his head at the expense of his of his boon companions and persecutors, estate, was Sir William Scott of would, over their drunken bowls, feign Harden, one of the ancestors of the themselves devils and those whom they author of Old Mortality' and 'Red- supposed in hell, and then whip one gauntlet.' James, who in 1681 had another, as a jest upon that place of succeeded Lauderdale in the admin- torment.” And then the pious bioistration of Scotch affairs, when grapher goes on to give, in the remarksummoned to England by the illness ably straightforward language of his of the king had declared that “there class and time, other particulars of would never be peace in Scotland till Lag's life and habits, which it is the whole of the country south of the neither necessary nor convenient to Forth was turned into a hunting- quote. As a matter of fact there ground.” His agents were certainly seems no reason to suppose that Lag doing their best to verify the royal was pre-eminent among his fellows for judgment.

an evil life and conversation, though And among them none at this time there is a story of his so grossly inwas more active than Lag. One of sulting Lord Kenmure that even the Lauderdale's first acts on his appoint- authority of Claverhouse could hardly ment as Lord High Commissioner in keep the peace; and once, on being 1669 had been to give to the local asked by one of his victims for a few militia, which had at the Restoration minutes' respite for prayer, he is retaken the place of the royal troops, all ported to have made answer, the duties and privileges of a standing devil have you been doing so many army. In 1678, when it was found years in these hills—have you not necessary to send fresh troops into the prayed enough ?” But the times western shires, this militia was were certainly not delicate; and bodied, under its local leaders, with the stories of Middleton and his the royal forces, and according to the drunken parliament show that no historians of the Covenanters it was the very grave scandal was supposed to men under the immediate command belong even to the most public breach of Lag who indulged in the peculiar of decorum.

of decorum. On the other hand, the practices ascribed by Macaulay to sobriety and cleanliness of ClaverClaverhouse's dragoons. In a passage house's life were always quoted even familiar to every one he has described by his bitterest foes as curious and them as relieving their hours of duty signal facts in a man of his quality by revels in which they mocked the and position. And this might in itself torments of hell, calling each other by be enough to seriously weaken Macthe names of devils and damned souls. aulay's charge, were no absolute disFor this information he has quoted the proof forthcoming. A captain cannot authority of Wodrow, but the sense of of course, be always looking after Wodrow's words, as must have been his soldiers' morals and manners, but

66 What a

em

one.

it is abundantly clear that Claver- by which he goaded the peasantry of house was one of the sternest disci- the western lowlands into madness—an plinarians that ever took or gave operation, it may in passing be oborders; and as he was, during these served, which had been performed just years at any rate, thrown into un- two years before young Graham had usually close personal contact with his left the university of Saint Andrews. men, it is unlikely that their oppor- With two out of the four he has setunities for relaxation such as their lected, Claverhouse had no more to do commander would certainly not have than Richard Cameron, who had been countenanced can have been many. five

years in his grave, or Robert WodIt would only be to meet the counsel row, who was just five years old. For for the prosecution at their own the worse of these two, the case of the game to go a step farther, and, Wigtown martyrs, the responsibility on the good old theory of like master rests with Lag and David Graham, like man, question whether the men brother of John, who was then sheriff under Claverhouse's command would of Galloway and one of the Lords not probably have contented them- Justices of Wigtownshire, but priselves with some more decorous form marily with Lag. Macaulay does of pastime.

not, indeed, directly name ClaverBut no one, of course, except for his house as responsible for the deaths of own purposes, would seriously take the Margaret Maclachlan and Margaret historians of the Covenanters as incon- Wilson, but the sense of the context testable witnesses to the characters of is, designedly or not, inevitable. the Cavaliers. Whatever Lag's pri- It is a curious point in connection vate character may have been, there with this affair that, after all the is no doubt whatever about his public horror and indignation the story of

It was as bad as bad could be. the cruel deed has aroused for upwards As a man of weight and mark in the of two centuries, there should be no country, and in high favour with the certain proof that it was ever comCouncil of Edinburgh for his energy mitted. The tribunal, before which and administrative parts, no doubt he the two women (and a third unnamed bore on his shoulders the burden of prisoner who seems to have been many misdeeds for which he was not acquitted) were brought, was personally responsible. So Claver- posed of Lag, David Graham, Major house has borne on his shoulders for Windram, Captain Strachan, and the last two centuries the burden of Provost Cultrain. The day of the many of Lag's misdeeds; and among trial was April the thirteenth, and these the most notorious is that popu- on the thirtieth of the same month larly known as the case of the Wig- a reprieve was sent down from the town martyrs.

Privy Council at Edinburgh, pendThe responsibility of Claverbouse ing the answer of the Secretaries for this affair again rests, we are sorry

of State to a recommendation for to have to say, with Macaulay. After

After pardon. After this all is a blank for the passage referred to above, in which five and twenty years. Some time behe first brings John Graham on the tween 1708 and 1711 the General stage, as a soldier of distinguished Assembly of the Scotch Church decourage and professional skill, but termined to collect particulars of the rapacious and profane, of violent tem- late persecution, and the record of the per, and of obdurate heart,” who "has Kirk Session of the parish of Penningleft a name which, wherever the Scot- hame, which professes to narrate this tish race is settled on the face of particular case, is dated in the latter the globe, is mentioned with

year.

There is no mention of it in peculiar energy of hatred,” Macaulay the minutes of the burgh of Wigtown; proceeds to give instances of the crimes and writers such as Mackenzie, the

com

a

Lord Advocate, before whom the case accept nothing that cannot be proved must have come, and Fountainhall, with mathematical certainty will alare equally silent. Patrick Walker, ways find arguments for doubting. the most scurrilous and bitter of all We, for our part, are not concerned the Covenanting scribes, after abusing any further to renew a controversy Lag for the crime in language which once so eagerly waged,' but now wellJohn Howie's own Lag could hardly nigh perhaps forgotten. To such of have bettered, owns that the story was our readers as may be still curious on not universally believed. On the other the point Colonel Fergusson's book hand there is the evidence of tradition will afford the means of forming their only; but it is the evidence of a tradi- own conclusions without prejudice ; tion that has been faithfully preserved for he himself, with a restraint perby generation after generation for two haps unprecedented in history, entirely hundred years, and preserved with an declines to commit himself to either amplitude and minuteness of detail side- -a piece of wisdom in which we such as it is hard to believe the sheer shall take the liberty of imitating fabrication of a furious and frightened him. peasantry. Colonel Fergusson has These three years, from 1685 to recorded one touch of terrible pic- 1688, form, as one may say, Lag's turesqueness. Many years after that flowering-time. But the record of the cruel scene on the Solway sands, an old ruffian's deeds soon grows as monoold broken-down man used to wan- tonous as revolting, and our readers der about the streets of Wigtown, will probably thank us for again imibearing on his shoulders a pitcher tating Colonel Fergusson-or even, as of water from which he was ever we are not writing a book, for imseeking to quench an intolerable thirst. proving on his example--and refrainEvery one knew and shunned him, ing even earlier than he does from for the cause of his strange disease exhausting their patience.

For a was common talk. He had been the wonder James proved no ungrateful town-officer of Wigtown, and when master. He conferred on Lag a the youngest of the two martyrs had baronetcy and a pension of two hunbeen lifted for a moment above the dred pounds : the latter he was not rising tide to give her one more chance suffered long to enjoy. of life by uttering the few necessary On the fourth of April, 1689, the words of abjuration, he had, on her Estates passed a vote declaring that refusal, thrust her down again with James had forfeited his right to the his halberd, bidding her take another crown, and that the throne was acdrink with her gossips, the crabs. And cordingly vacant. This was followed to the evidence of tradition must be a week later by a Claim of Right, added the evidence of a stone in the enlarging on the reasons of that forchurchyard of Wigtown, which, as feiture, and an offer of the crown far back as 1714, marked the grave to William and Mary. Among the of Margaret Wilson, “who great Scotch nobles who, while caring drowned in the water of the Bled- little for the political liberty of their nock, upon the eleventh of May, country, would resist every attack on 1684 (5), by the Laird of Lag.” That the Protestant religion, was the Duke Wodrow employed the pencil of tra- of Queensberry, Lag's brother-in-law.2 dition to illustrate his melancholy He had in consequence been stripped tale, and that Macaulay, as his fashion was, heightened the primitive touches 1 In the pages of this Magazine among of Wodrow, no one would dispute ; other places. See an article on The Wigbut that the whole affair should be

town Martyrs,' by the late Principal Tulloch,

in December, 1862. sheer fiction seems impossible. It is, 2 Lag had married the Lady Henrietta however, a story which those who will Douglas, Queensberry's sister.

was

cause,

of all his employments, but neverthe-action, too frivolous indeed to need less had stood by his king so long as any defence, brought against him there had been a king for him to stand seven years later for uttering false by. He had returned to Scotland when coin. It seems that he had let his William reached London, and had house at Rockhall to an engraver who at first been regarded by those mem- was also interested in a new device bers of the Estates who still remained for stamping patterns on linen. The loyal to James as their most capable case broke completely down, but Lag's leader. But Queensberry had no in- fury, as his biographer observes, may tention of risking his life in a lost be easier imagined than described.

On the motion for declaring At this point he disappears from the throne vacant he would not vote; public record, though he lived on till but when the motion had been passed 1733, a savage, gloomy old man in the he gave his voice willingly to the same house at Rockhall, a lonely proposition that William was the three-storied building a few miles proper person to fill the vacancy. south of Dumfries on the English Queensberry and Lag had always been road, looking over Solway Firth to the good friends, and had the latter chosen hills of Cumberland. His eldest son to keep quiet, his brother-in-law's in- William, to whom he had two years fluence would probably have served to previously made over his estates, was protect him from his many enemies. out in the Fifteen,” and only escaped But he stoutly refused to take the with a heavy fine. But Lag had so oath of allegiance, standing apart craftily worded the deed of entail that from trimmers like Athol, from dis- he was enabled to escape the penalty appointed place - hunters like Mont- of his son's treason. In fact, as far gomery and Annandale, and from the as worldly prosperity goes, both he open adherents of William like Queens- and his family fared much better than berry and

Hamilton. It was not they could reasonably have hoped. likely that such a man would be left The active hate he had once inspired to drink his toasts over the water in had now died down into monstrous peace. Through the most part of traditions which are still not wholly William's reign his story is one of extinct. From the ceiling of a room perpetual fines and imprisonments. on the ground floor of the house at Nor had he the fortune of his former Rockhall, now used as a wine cellar, colleague in the chance of proving still hangs an iron hook twelve inches himself fit for something better than long from which the old tyrant is hunting peasants to death. Through said to have hung his Covenanting the wild summer that followed Claver prisoners ; and a hill in the neighbourhouse's defiance to the Convention, hood is still pointed out as that down Lag lay among a crowd of prisoners which he used for his amusement to roll in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, packed them in a barrel full of spikes and knifeas close as negroes in a slaver's hold blades, after a fashion believed to have and in much the same plight, in been invented by the Carthaginians daily peril of a death far less glorious nearly two thousand years earlier for than that Dundee found in the Pass

the special behoof of a Roman consul. of Killiecrankie. But, perhaps, the It was also said of him, as of another cruellest blow that the proud impo- Sir Robert-Sir Robert Laurie, of tuous old man suffered was from an Maxwelton—that a cup of wine had 1 The minutes of the Privy Council for

once tured to bloond in his hand. Of the twenty-eighth of August, 1689, show a

there

keen curiosity petition from Lag, praying to be released among the rising generation for a from an imprisonment which had lasted since

glimpse of the grim old man of whom the eighth of July, on the ground that his health had suffered from a malignant fever

their fathers had such dreadful memowhich had broken out in the jail.

ries. On one occasion, a lad, full of

course

was

this curiosity, got leave to carry a and enthusiastic, though in practice load of faggots into the hall where irregular with drink." How fresh Lag was used to sit all day cower- still in his own childhood was the ing over a huge fire.

As the boy memory of Lag our author gives an entered, the old man, well know- extremely curious instance, which will ing the popular feeling, turned on best be told in his own language :him, and, bending his brows into the fatal horse-shoe, said, in a voice

“Some forty years ago, or more, it was whose harshness even fourscore years common in many of the houses in Dumfrieshad not wholly quenched, “Ony shire and Galloway to commemorate annually

the evil deeds of the Laird Whigs in Gallowa' noo, lad ?” The

Lag. They

used to represent him in shape of beast as boy dropped his load and scuttled

hideous as the ingenuity of the performer from the hall as though the devil entrusted with the part could make it, withindeed had been after him.

out wandering far, however, from a convenLag died on the last day of the year

tional model, which it was understood should

be adhered to. This is how it was done in 1733, in his house at Dumfries. As

my mother's house, and we were singularly his end drew near he was sorely fortu ate in possessing in an

old nurse, tormented with the gout, and the story Margaret Edgar, an artiste who had made the goes that relays of servants were part her own, and her name famous by reason

of her wonderful impersonation.

She was posted from his door to the Nith, some

known throughout the country-side for the two hundred yards away, to hand up manner in which she could 'play Lag,' as the buckets from the fresh stream to cool phrase went. Her make-up and her acting his fiery torments; and that the mo- were excellent alike. In dressing for the part ment his feet touched the water it

she used to take a sheet, or blanket, or some

such covering, which was drawn over her head began to hiss and smoke! So, as every and body, only the feet and hands being left one knows—for we reject as too gross out. But the one chief point, on which the a libel even on this generation the individuality of the monster depended, was thought that there can be any one

the head, which was invariably composed in who does not know his Scott-so

one way, no scope for fancy being permitted.

The kitchen implement called in Scotland a bubbled and sparkled like a seething ‘potato beetle, which cauldron the water into which Red- pestle, the handle pretty thick, and between gauntlet plunged his swollen feet on

two and three feet long, and ending in a

ponderous oval head, was entirely covered by the awful day when Willie Steenson's

strips of cloth being wrapped round it. Eyes father last saw him alive. And here were drawn upon it, and pieces of fur sewed we may note a curious piece of family on for eyebrows ; long ears and a mouth were history Colonel Fergusson has recorded:

added, the long handle of the instrument

forming an imposing proboscis. This structhe last paper to which old Lag ever

ture was fastened to the head of the performer, put his name was a receipt for some who moved on hands and knees ; the result back arrears of rent ; and the paper was a quadruped resembling a combination of is among the family archives at this

the tapir of Borneo and South American antday.

eater, strongly conveying an impression as of

a character escaped from a medieval miracleBut we have not space to go through play. The Abbot of Unreason would have been all the legends coined about this fell proud of such an attendant in his train. old creature. Colonel Fergusson's book

Margaret Edgar possessed the skill needed to

give life-like movements to the beast, and to will feed all further curiosity full.

keep up the character of ferreting and listening And let him who has such curiosity be implied by the long nose and ears. She careful not to miss the chapter on

threw into her reading of the part an amount • Lag's Elegy,' that scathing diatribe

of cat-like inquisitiveness and a determination

recalling the restless and unwearying maligon the protagonists of “the killing

nity of the original that made the blood run time” which Carlyle has told us in cold of old and young. The head and dress his ‘Reminiscences' was the work of being in readiness, a suitable night had to be old John Orr, the dominie of Hoddam

chosen for the appearance of the Laird,

usually about the time of Halloween, when parish, of whom he had often heard

minds are attune with things unearthly. On his father talk as a man “religious some dark November night-for there was

« PreviousContinue »