The Martyrs of Wigton
Lays of the Kirk and Covenant
Mrs A. Stuart Menteath. Sime,Glasgow 1892.
think if it were Jesus Christ, and if it were a fundamental
called to confess, they would stand for it
and estate ; but it is thought that Christians now stand
things that are but fancies and nice scrupulosities, and
that, if there be any thing in them, it is but a small matter ; and
shall a man venture his life and all, upon a small thing? ‘Well, if
they be none of
go ; but if they be one of His truths, will ye call that a small thing?
His small things
are very great things. “-JOHN LIVINGSTONE.
bonnie hills of Galloway! the clouds above ye driven
Make pleasant shadows in your depths, with glints andgleams
have fairy, hidden lakes, deep in your secret breast
shine out suddenly like stars, as the sunbeams go to
have dells, and greenwood nooks, and little valleys
Where the wild bee bows the harebell down, beside the
And over all, grey Cairnsmore glooms -a monarch stern
the heather climbs his barrenness, and purples half his throne!
bonnie hills of Galloway ! oft have I stood to see
hour, your shadows fall at darkening on the sea;
visions of the buried years, came o’er me in their might –
phantoms of the sepulchre—instinct with inward light !
years—the years—when Scotland groaned beneath her tyrant’s hand,
was not for the heather she was called “the purple land,”
was not for their loveliness her children blessed their God
secret places of the hills, and the mountain heights untrod.—
Oh ! as a
rock, those memories still breast time’s surging flood,
than twice ten torture years of agony and blood !
beacon-light they gleam upon her pathway now,
her with the Saviour’s seal—His cross upon her brow!
may the land whose flowers spring fresh from martyr graves
moment’s parley hold with Rome—her mimics—or her slaves,
palter with the chains, whose scars are on her yet, –
must give up the dead again—ere Scotland can forget !—
grave—a grave is by the sea—in a place of ancient tombs‑
restless murmuring of waves, for ever o’er it comes—
pleasant sound in summer-tide —a requiem low and clear,
But oh !
when storms are on the hill—it hath a voice of fear !
and high the tomb weeds wave, around that humble stone,
may trace the legend rude — with lichen half o’ergrown‑
the seven years’ child that sits beside the broken wall,
not need to spell it o’er—his heart hath stored it all!
peasant’s tale — a humble grave two names on earth unknown,
bears them on His heart, before the eternal throne !
and heroes yet shall come to wish their lot were bound
those poor women slumbering, beneath the wave-girt ground !
keeps many a memory, of blood as water poured
peasant summoned at his toil, to own, and meet his Lord
secret hungering in the hills — where none but God might see,—
Earth had many martyrs—but these two were of the sea !
redcoats, lass ! the redcoats !” cry the weans from off the street ;
but Claver’se’s evil eye may blast them if they meet !
only Bruce and Windram come; but, oh ! was worth the way
gotten Gilbert Wilson’s bairns in their cruel hands to-day!
Annie! bonnie Annie! oh, but she is wasted sore,
weary wandering in the hills—this seven month and more;
Margaret, with her bleeding feet, and weather-stained brow,
surely One alone could breathe the calm upon it now!
reeks not of the jibing words those ruthless soldiers speak ;
not of her bleeding feet—her frame so worn and weak;
not even the pitying looks that follow as she goes,
is filled so full with prayer—that God alone she knows!
she looked for such a day with awe and shuddering dread;
terror in the night hath fallen—haunting her cavern bed;
hath prayed in agony, that if He might not spare,
would bear her charges then—and He hath heard her prayer!
brought her to their judgment-hall a narrow prison-room,
she look’d up, as they crossed, from sunlight into gloom,
sound of bitter weeping close beside her now she hears –
wished her hands unshackled, just to dry her mother’s tears !
questioned of her wanderings—they have mocked her with their words ;
asked her if the Covenant, could shield her from their swords;
Or if she
sought a miracle to test her call the more–
ventured to her father’s home — right past the curate’s door!
questioned her with cruel taunts — and waited for reply ;
her father’s look of woe—her mother’s streaming eye,—
quivered all her frame— strange gaspings choked her breath,
the words forth, one by one, as from the lips of death :–
blink of our own ingle—it came glancing o’er the tide,
were wet and weary both upon the mountain side;
heart grew sick within—my father’s face to see,
yearned to rest her head upon my mother’s knee !
men ! but they are bitter tears—ye cause the house-less weep,
haunting thoughts of food and fire—that will not let them sleep,
temptings of home words and ways—even whispering as they pray,
Another takes the load—once tempted even as they !”
a murmur through the crowd—first hope, and then despair,
the scoffing laugh of Bruce—was that which could not spare,
“0 lass !
ye should have ta’en the bay—ere there was light to see !”
answered to that pitying voice—” I dared na for the sea !”
is a little stroke draws from the flint the fire,
And but a
little spark may light the martyr’s funeral‑pyre-
the hearts of evil men such mischiefs smouldering herd,
cruel thought, to cruel deed, may kindle at a word.
! the sea! the raging sea! and can it tame your pride ?
! we’ll frame a Covenant with the advancing tide ;‑
To-morrow—when the dawn is chill—in Blednoch Bay we’ll see
persuasion harbours in the cold kiss of the sea!”
A man is
stricken to the earth–by that strange voice of doom ;
mother pleads not–knows not—all is blackness in the room;
smit with sudden blindness—she goes groping from the door,
hinder her to follow—who shall see her face no more !
father! Oh, the father he was a timid man and weak,
still with every time –he had his faith to seek;
within his heart and brain, a dreadful sound lie hears,
of rushing waters—but they find no vent in tears!
him! He hath need of prayer—and knows not how to pray ;
out vain appeals to men who scoff, and turn away;
grovels in the dust—in desperate anguish now-‑
feels his Margaret’s kiss, like dew upon his brow.
thee, father! oh, this sight is pitiful to see 1
thou not give thy child for Him, who gave His Son for thee ?
me,dear father, He is near, His promise to fulfil,
passing through the waters – He will be beside us still !”
the solemn evening hour—the seal of that sad day,
rich purple of the hills is blending all to grey;
the cloud thrones of the west, the last bright gleam bath fled,
moon riseth white and wan—as a watcher o’er the dead!
Gilbert Wilson by his hearth—one child beside his knee ;
cheaply ransomed with his all !—a ruined man is he:
poor life—and those poor hoards—the Cross he dared to shun,
proffered now for his
they have bought
beside his blackened hearth — unconscious of its gloom
bath gathered at his heart—that mocks at that cold room;
no food upon the board—no kindled rush to guide
gudewife at her nightly task, of spinning by his side;
saving that at times his hand, as if to prove her there,
the darkness tremblingly amid his Annie’s hair—
saving that the mother’s moan at times will make him start,
have deemed—the mighty grief had burst the feeble heart!
prison bars are stark and strong, to shut out light and air,
the moonlight’s sympathy–it stealeth even there;
glory on the dungeon floor—as on the free green sod,
voiceless messenger of peace to souls at peace with God!
Margaret sitteth in its beam its radiance on her brow,
the crown she soon shall wear were brightening O’er her now,
folded hands upon her knee, and half suspended breath,
to one who shares her cell—and soon must share her death!
place—a solemn time–for parted friends to meet,
the same extremity–their communing is sweet;
in prayer and praise, fleet by the watches of the night, –‑
like the moonbeam, enters in —and floods the grave with light
and age contrasted well, in mutual help ye blend,
tells of the unchanging God that of the Saviour friend
tramples life’s new springing flowers, for her Redeemer’s sake,
stays her age on Him–who never can forsake!
they loved—as Christians love, those two, so soon to die,
the other greeted first–with weeping—silently.
matron wept–that that young life, so timelessly must cease ;
maiden—that that honoured bead. must not go down in peace.
soon—oh! soon it passed away—the coward thought and base,
looked humbly, thankfully, into the other’s face
He rules the awful sea — with all its waters wild “‑
waters are His voice — of love to thee, my child!”
guards .are met — the stakes are set — deep, deep within the sand,
toward the advancing tide, one nearer to the land;
along the narrow shore, that girdles in the bay,
groups of anxious watchers come—as wane the stars away!
the fog clouds on the hills—blank in their curtained screen,
crest of beauty veils its brow, from that abhorred scene ;
eastward far, the straining eye, through mist and gloom, may see
raindrops plashing heavily—into a dull, sad sea !
come—they come !—a distant sound !—a measured marching,—soon
mail-clad men the dewdrops rain, from off thy woods Baldoon !
trodden grass—the trampled flowers—alas! poor emblems they,
Of all a
despot’s iron heel, was crushing down that day.
shall revive; – the harebell, see! uprears its crest again
falling dew, hath cleansed anew, its purity from stain;
beneath the oppressor’s tread and hell’s opposing powers,
truth throughout the land shall spring— a sudden growth of flowers !
little Margaret’s playmates deemed— in childhood’s frolic glee
shadow of a coming hour, still scared her at the sea
secret shiver of the soul, passed to her from the bay,
her cast with impulse strong, the sea – weed crown away !
they seek, with mirthful wile, to lure her to the stra.nd,
the sea – shell ‘mid the flowers she grasped with eager hand,
But in it
still a whisper stirred, that shook her soul with fears,
they mocked her weakness then—remembered now with tears!
silence deepened on the throng, as near and nearer came
victims to their place of doom – the murders to their shame;
were blank and hopeless looks—white lips, dry parched with fear,
murmurs— suddenly suppressed, lest they who rule should hear -,
bowed down with women’s tears—until the sod was wet,—-‑
Bothwell Brig unnerved their arm, and crushed their manhood vet.
the land ! the despot’s rule hath lined its soil with graves,
beneath the frown of God—but taskmasters and slaves!
the land! Aye, gaze ye here ! ye, who would school the soul
high conscience -post of trust—to bow to your control
is done! the strife is won! the conflict passed away –
these wrecks of human kind !—and triumph if ye may!
hearts once beat beneath the vest a Scottish peasant wears ;–‑
Go ! seek
them in their martyr graves ! for these are not their heirs
seed the mountains keep, till God’s good time shall come
harvest, sown in blood and tears, be brought with shoutings home !
sound—it cometh from the sea! and many a cheek is pale ;
freshening wind—and fast behind, that hurrying voice of wail, “
my heart 1″ – cries Windram now “haste, comrades, while ye may!
Solvay speed —-I rede ye heed —- the tide comes in to-day !
mother, to the stake amain !—your praying time is past
the breakers, if ye will they race not in so fast !”
hairs streaming on the wind they bear her to the bay,
nearer roars the hungry sea, that ravens for its prey.
Margaret stands — with cold, clasped hands — that bitter sight to see,
toward her own death-place they guide her silently.
impulse swayed the crowd, as those young limbs were bound—
moment’s movement stilled as soon—a shiver through a wound
have left her all alone—- with that strong seabefore—
of faith’s extremity, faint mingling with its roar–‑
the eyes that cannot close — those grey hairs streaming still,
round about, with hideous rout — the wild waves work their will !
maiden, ho! what see’st thou there ?” ’tis Windram’s brutal voice ;
an earthly portion now were scarce beneath thy choice!
sea-birds, screaming in their glee, how low they swoop to-day‑
us, lass ! what dainty cheer allures them in the bay?”
hath passed on that young brow—a glow—a light from heaven,
sea, the lowering sky, to her seems glory riven
“It is my
Saviour wrestling there, in those poor limbs I see,
He who is
strength in death to her, hath strength in death for me !”
sudden from those parted lips, rich tones of triumph come
is past—she stands at last, superior to her doom!
strains, in midnight watchings learned, on many a blasted heath,
slowly, solemnly to heaven, the anthem of her death !
sweetness vibrates on the gale, it rises o’er the sea,
though an angel choir prolonged that thrilling harmony,
the song of faith and praise swells louder, clearer yet,
her feet the foam wreathes curl— and the dry sand grows wet!
!—it echoes from the hills! it pealeth to the sky!
Startling wild creatures of the woods with its wild agony—
bounding on from rock to rock, with gaunt arms tossed to heaven,
maniac gestures—scaring still, the crowd before him drive
man hath gained the bay, with bloodshot eyes and wild,
him down at Windram’s feet, and shrieked— ” My child! my child!”
Margaret heard—as died her song in one convulsive gasp—
rushing waters bound her in the terror of their clasp !
child! my child! she shall not die—I’ve gold, I’ve gold,” lie cried;
one heart that pitied me, though all were stone beside
that for a hundred pounds, the oaths ye’d proffer still
young life !—she’ll take your tests—I know, I know she will!
Windram glanced upon the gold—he glanced upon the sea
thou comest late,” he said; “she might have lived for me!”
strong swimmers, at the word, plunge headlong in the wave,
reach the stake—the cords they break !—not, not too late to save !
throng to chafe her hands and raise her drooping head,
warm tears on the cold brow—so calm—so like the dead;
While that poor father, crouching near, creeps shuddering
And steals his hand up to her heart—to count its earliest
Just then—athwart two glooming clouds—the morning sun
Lighting a glory on the wave—a sunbow in the spray—
And up the hills the mist-wreaths rolled, revealing half
And Margaret in the gleam awoke— and breathed her
Dark Windram turned him on his heel—he paced apart
” Oh for the heart of Claver’se now—to do this work and
Come, gir], be ruled! tliou’st proved enough, methinks, yon
Will find the partans ” fitter food, than these young limbs
Hold off, and let me near to her! beshrew this snivelling
Ho, lass! stand up upon thy feet, and pray, ‘God save the
“To die unsaved were horrible, ” she said with low, sad
” Oh, yes ! God save him if He will ! the angels would
he sprang – that trembling man – low covering at her feet :
said, `tis said, my bairn – those words of life repeat !”
Windram signaled with his hand – and rose a shout on high
blessing on the tyrant’s head! but ere it reached the sky,
miscreant foul hath stopped its course—and baulked the echoes near
could not catch a sound that died, like curses on the ear !
mean man, with shuffling gait, bath pressed before the rest
well to pray ‘ God save the king ‘–but will she take the Test?”
Windram looked into his face—and cursed his civil sneer
him for the tool of Grahame—his spy, and creature there,–
curate’s brother—creeping up in those ill times to place,
in apostasy from God—to all things vile and base !
” Well !
well ! Sir Provost, work your will—this dear is to your mind ;
I’d rather fight with men, than choke this woman‑kind.
abjure the Covenant – none better knows the how
scarce an oath on either side, but you have gulped ere now !”
smiling stood the Provost forth, no chafing stirred his blood
he muttered of “King James “—” the law “and “public good,”
as angry brows grew dark, and women muttered loud,
toward the soldiery, as though he feared the crowd!
Margaret, baulk this bloodhound yet !—Oh, spare thy father’s woe ! “
started from their clasping arms,—” I may not !—let me go!
I am the
child of Christ,” she said. “Lord! break this snare for me !”‑
Windram turned his face aside and pointed to the sea!
will not cease—they will not sleep—those voices of the wave,
ever whispering, above the martyr’s grave;
heard at night—’tis heard at noon—the same low wailing song,
loud—in cadence low—” How long, O Lord—how long!”
against thee from the tide ! O tyrant, banned of Heaven !
the blood-voice of the earth—and answer shall be given !
while—the cup fills fast—it overflows for thee—
extremity shall prove, the vengeance of the sea !
gnash thy teeth in impotence ! the fated hour is come
– with her strength of waves – bears the avenger home.
eager thousands throng the shore, to hail the advancing fleet,
baffled Dartmouth vainly strives, that heaven-sent foe to meet;
on hurrying post crowds fast, with tidings of dismay,
glassed waters lull, to aid the landing of Torbay.
prepare thy coward flight—thy sceptre scourge cast down
pursues thee with its curse—thou king without a crown !