Covenanter story is very much about imprisonment whether
of the many ministers cast into prison for their beliefs
and resistance to episcopacy; or the people who took up
armed resistance and their life in their hands to attend
conventicles. There was also the invidious open
imprisonment of banishment to remote places within
Scotland when often the family of the prisoner was
prohibited from joining him. For the Marquis of Argyll
there was the unique `imprisonment` under the Cromwellian
regime, of confinement to his estates in Argyllshire for
the best part of ten years.

The nature
of the prison varied from the
 which most towns had, and in which minor criminals were often held pending appearance before a magistrate, to sturdier castles around the country, In the countryside there
were the fortified homes and castles of the gentry which
might be used. For the Solway Martyrs in Wigton 1685, there was
confinement in a coal cellar in total darkness, before being taken out and
executed by drowning.  Larger towns and cities had common prisons
for thieves, murderers, rogues and vagabonds. And then
there were the especially secure, military style, prisons
in castles such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Stirling,
Blackness, Dunnottar and the Bass Rock. For some there was
even the Tower of London.

Melville was lured to London and was held in The Tower for
four years 1607-1611 having previously (1583) been
sentenced to confinement in Blackness but escaped to
England. Other prisoners in the Tower included the Earl of
Loudon in 1639; the Marquis of Argyll in 1660; Archibald
Johnstone, Lord Warriston in June 1663 before transfer to
Edinburgh Tolbooth and execution; and William Carstares in 1674.

An earlier
Presbyterian, Andrew Duncan, was one of the ministers who
was harried from pillar to post – he attended the Assembly
at Aberdeen in 1605 and was imprisoned in Blackness Castle
for fourteen months. He also opposed the Five Articles of
Perth and was banished to Dundee and separated from his
wife and family. He was later imprisoned in Dumbarton
Castle, banished to France and then, after some time,
allowed to return. John Welch was a prisoner in Blackness
for supporting the Aberdeen Assembly.  Henry Blythe
minister of the Cannongate Church, Edinburgh was sent
there because of an injudicious sermon about the
commitment of Welch and others to prison. William Rigg of
Athernie was imprisoned there in 1624 for failing to kneel
at Communion.

Castle was used for the ministers of the kirk in 1605 with
the nineteen Aberdeen Assembly ministers. John Davidson
was there in 1599, John Murray minister of Leith, in 1608;
and Robert Bruce in 1621. John Semple, who was arrested
with James Guthrie in 1660, spent ten months locked up in
Edinburgh Castle where Alexander Moncrieff and Robert
Traill joined them for their subscription to the `Paper
of 23 August 1660`.Edinburgh had several places of
detention primarily the Castle and the Tolbooth and at the
lower end of town (previously a separate parish) was the
Canongate Tolbooth in which many Covenanters resided –
and escaped from as well. 

There were
also the ladies of the Covenant who were held in Edinburgh
including Mrs Janet Hamilton (Lady Gordon of Earlstoun) in
1687. Lady Caldwel and three daughters were detained in
Glasgow Tolbooth for three years and her daughter Jean,
for six months, in 1683. Lady Campbell of Auchinbreck and
Lady Cavers were incarcerated in the Tolbooth of Stirling.
Neither were the ladies excluded from the dreadful
Dunnottar which included Mrs Gardiner, widow of the Rev J
Gardiner; Janet Fimerton, Janet Linton, and the elderly
Euphan Thriepland. who was tortured with lighted matches
between the fingers because she dared to denounce the
atrocities that were being committed.

Imprisonment could also be very lengthy, and detention
pending trial was sometimes prolonged as a means of
keeping the prisoner out of circulation and thus from
preaching. This happened to some Irish Presbyterian
ministers who were incarcerated for six years for simply
being Presbyterians. James Mitchell was over two years
being prosecuted and made no less than six appearances
before the Privy Council, he was subjected to torture, and
endured a spell in the Bass before he was finally
sentenced and executed at the insistence of Archbishop Sharp. Robert Garnock was held for nearly
three years in various prisons before sentencing. But the
worst case might be that of Robert Ker of Kersland who was
held in Edinburgh Castle for three months, then removed to
Dumbarton Castle for a year and a half. He was then
transferred to Aberdeen for three months in the depths of
winter before being sent to Stirling Castle for some
years, and then a second time to Dumbarton. In all he
spent eight years shuttling round the prisons before he
was finally banished from Scotland.

Blackness Castle

Bass Rock

Dunnottar Castle

Greyfriars Kirk Yard.