Pentland Rising – Rullion Green

Pentland Rising and the Battle of Rullion Green  is
an important event in Covenanter history because it was
the first time the

rullboard.jpg (27609 bytes)
had come together as a substantial force to protest the
constraints upon their religion since the Restoration of
King Charles II.
Significantly it arose not from any
great machinations of rebellion, but was a spontaneous event; the protest
of downtrodden people against taskmasters whose cruelties had become
insufferable .From its sudden inception until its bloody close only two
weeks elapsed.

Green lies about 8 miles south of Edinburgh on the slopes
of the Pentland Hills

Rullion Green enclosure.
was, as now, prime sheep country. On the fringe of a small
wood there is a railed enclosure containing a single
headstone commemorating the events of 1666.

In April, 2000, the
inscriptions on the solitary stone were almost
indecipherable and badly in need of cleaning.

Side 1
. Here and near to this place lyes the
Reverend Mr John Crookshank** and Mr Andrew M’cormick
ministers of the Gospel and About fifty other true
covenanted Presbyterians who were killed in this place in
their own Inocent self defence and defence of the
covenanted work of Reformation By Thomas Dalzeel of Bins
upon the 28 of november 1666 Rev 12. 11 Erected September
28, 1738.

Side 2.
A cloud of witnesses lyes here, who for Christ’s
interest did appear For to restore true Liberty Overturned
then by Tyrrany And by Proud Prelats who did rage Against
the Lord’s own heritage. They sacrificed were for the Laws
Of Christ their King, his noble cause, These heroes fought
with great renown, By falling got the Martyr`’ Crown.

** Wodrow
says John
Crookshanks ( Minister of Redgorton) was slain at
Pentland, but this
was probably
his son John, who was some

time regent
in Edinburgh Univ., and
ained to


and Raphoe
in Ireland before 1661.[

Ecclesiae Scoticanae, H Scott (1915) rev 1917, 1920vol 4 p 240 Redgorton,

had been building on the Covenanter ministers from 1662,
when about 400 were ejected from their churches, and in
1664  more rules were introduced which prohibited any
ejected minister living within 20 miles of his former
church. Severe penalties were imposed on parishioners who
failed to attend church services conducted by curates
appointed by the government. The curates were required to
furnish names of absentees from church to local military
commanders for enforcement of fines. The military were
frequently cruel and would be quartered on a a defaulter
until the fine was paid, in the meantime eating him out of
house and home and stealing his goods, chattels and

 The spark
to the march on Edinburgh occurred on November 13, 1666,
at St. John’s Dalry in Kirkcudbrightshire. An elderly man
by the name of John Grier was unable to pay a fine for not
attending church and was beaten severely by some of Sir
James Turner’s soldiers. A group of four local Covenanters
led by MacLellan of Barscobe happened to be in the village
. They went to the rescue and entreated the soldiers to
let the old man go. However, swords were drawn  and a
pistol shot (loaded with a piece of clay pipe in the
absence of a ball) wounded one of the soldiers, a Corporal George Deane. The
Covenanters were joined by other villagers who helped
disarm the soldiers.

A crowd of about ninety
people gathered
a local landlord, John
Neilson of Corsock.
Reckoning that they would be severely
punished by other soldiers in the vicinity, they resolved
to take them prisoner. Knowing also, that they would
receive little mercy from Sir James Turner, they decided
to march on Dumfries where he was based. On their way they
repeated their deed in Balmaclellan where they took 16
soldiers prisoner, killing one. So it happened that a
band, now grown to about 250, marched to Baillie Finnie`s
house in Dumfries between eight and nine in the morning of 15 November
1666.  Here  they took prisoner their zealous
persecutor and local military commander, Sir James Turner
– still in his nightclothes. They relieved him of monies
sent from Edinburgh for paying his soldiers, and also
fines that they had collected. His troops, of which there were only a
dozen or so in the town, were disarmed
with one soldier wounded. A curious incident then followed
when the monies they had seized was entrusted to a Captain
Gray, who promptly decamped with it the following night –
never to be seen again.

protesters came mainly from the West of Scotland, from
Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire, and Lanarkshire, where
the ministers, who had been ejected from their churches,
continued preaching by holding open air meetings, called
“conventicles”. To hold such meetings was an offence and
many suffered for it, but their flock grew, especially
among the peasantry.
 At Bridge
of Doon, the Covenanters found their military leader in
Colonel James Wallace of Auchens , an
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experienced soldier who joined them along with his
deputies Major Learmouth, Captain Arnot and Captain Paton
of Meadowhead. In a turn of fortunes these  men had once stood
shoulder to shoulder with Dalziel of the Binns at Worcester in 1651, but
now found themselves on opposing sides. Having some professional leadership,
the gathering multitude marched to Ayr. They collected
further recruits at Mauchline and Lesmahagow and by the
time they had swung round to Lanark they numbered about
1200. At Lanark it was decided to renew the Covenants,
which prompted additional recruits, and brought the total
to about 3000. 

When the
news of the rising reached Edinburgh Commissioner Rothes
was in London and Archbishop Sharp  was President of
the Council. Sharp summoned a meeting of the Council and
issued instructions  to General Thomas Dalziel of the Binns,
commander of the army. Dalziel was dispatched to Glasgow,
where he levied conscripts, with instructions to march
upon the rebels wherever they were found. The noblemen in
the south and west were directed to hold themselves ready
to join the royal forces. Sharp`s presumptive action did
not sit well with the nobility who sarcastically 
asked if there was no one but a priest to issue orders in
an emergency. 

Dalziel and some 2,500 troops in the vicinity of Lanark  the
Covenanters decided to
head for Edinburgh with the intention of making
representations against the harsh regime. But clearly, the
force was seen also as a threat to the government and the
King. Unfortunately they chose to march to Bathgate on
possibly the worst road in Scotland – over an almost
impossible moor. To make things worse the weather was foul
with torrential rain and no shelter or support was
forthcoming when they arrived. In consequence their
numbers began reducing as  almost half the company
headed for home. On November 25, the rebels reached Colinton about five miles from Edinburgh where messengers
advised that the gates were armed with cannon and there
was no support for their cause in the city. With this
disheartening news it was decided to return to Galloway
and many more of the band went their different ways.

afternoon of Wednesday November 28 1666, the  rebels
paraded on the slopes of Rullion Green not so much to
fight but  for review by Colonel Wallace, who was
concerned at their low spirits and the continuing
desertions. Their spirits revived  when horsemen were
seen coming from the west – hopes were that
reinforcements had arrived from West Lothian. But the sound of kettle
drums and fluttering standards showed them to be the
vanguard of  Dalziel`s troops, who had learned of their whereabouts in the village
of Currie and had taken a short cut through the hills to
intercept them.  His 3,000 (some say 5,000) semi and professional
soldiers met strong resistance from a force of about 900 that had the
advantage of the ground.

The battle
ground is a long slope, highest at the north end. 
Colonel Wallace  placed the gentlemen of Galloway, on
horses, commanded by McLellan of Barscobe, at the south
end.  Those on foot were placed in the centre, and
the greater part of the cavalry under Major Learmont on
the other wing .  Dalziel was a seasoned commander who
had seen service in Russia and Poland and had gained a
fearsome reputation as `the Beast of Muscovy`. His military skills soon
came into play. After some time viewing the opposition Dalziel sent about fifty horse to attack the Covenanters
on  lowest end of the slope – which was soon
countered by Captain Arnot and his horse. Being forced to
retire and regroup, Dalziel then ordered a charge against
Major Learmont that was also rebuffed. At about sunset
Dalziel moved his entire force forward and attacked the
centre which soon crumbled under the onslaught and was
unable to rally. The sheer weight of

penthills.jpg (17493 bytes)
eventually crushed the Covenanters who fled into the
Pentland Hills leaving two ministers from Ulster and about
50 Covenanters dead on the slopes of Rullion Green.

Colonel Wallace later said

” we were beaten back,
and the enemy came in so full a body and with so fresh a charge, that,
having us once running, they carried it strongly home, and put us in such
confusion that there was no rallying.”

 Several of
the wounded Covenanters were brought in by country people
and others were shot or slain in their flight and were
buried in neighbouring kirkyards of Penicuik and
Glencorse. The kirk session records of Penicuik lists a
payment to a grave digger of 3s 4d for “making
westlandmen’s graves”.

Wallace survived the battle and went to Holland leaving a
terrible condemnation of the local people who, he said,
left the Covenanters unburied for a day and a night and
stripped the bodies of their apparel. It was the women of
Edinburgh who came and wrapped the bodies with winding
sheets and buried them. About 70 – 100 prisoners were taken, mostly having
been given quarter but about 30 were hanged at
the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh and at various places in the
South West as a warning to others. Many of the wounded are
believed to have died in the bogs and on the moors when
trying to reach their homelands in the west.
He died
in Rotterdam in 1678. Robert McWard writing to John Blackadder said of
Wallace`s  last days

” if the cause for
which he had suffered was mentioned, when it was scarce  believed he
understood or could speak, there was a sunshine of serene joy looked out
of his countenance …”

 One tale
is told of a nameless Covenanter dying from his wounds,
who reached the home of an Adam Sanderson, a farmer at
Blackhill. The wounded man sought relief and wished to be
on his way soon realising the danger to his host but in a
parlous state and dying asked to be buried in sight of his
homeland of Ayrshire. The next day he was found dead and
Adam Sanderson carried the body to a spot on Black Law and
buried him. A tombstone marks the spot, from which on a
clear day Ayrshire can be seen over twenty miles away.

Pentland Rising came as a great shock to the Duke of Rothes, the King`s Commissioner in Scotland, and his
cohort, Archbishop Sharp, who had earlier sought the
King’s permission to bring back the Court of High
Commission to deal with the summary trial and conviction
of the troublesome Covenanters. With these absolute powers
the persecution of the Presbyterians took a bloody turn. 
Not content with having prisoners, a harsh

was made on December 4th which was
intended to make  the lives of those who escaped as
uncomfortable as possible. This declared many named
persons, as well as all persons generally who took part,
as rebels and traitors and forbade anyone having contact
with them or harbouring them, supplying them etc. Among
those named was the celebrated Alexander Peden, and also a
Mr Orr (no other particulars  are given 
although the title Mr is normally given to ministers of
the kirk;  he may have been one of the Covenanter
Orrs from Lochwinnoch.) 

About 70-100
prisoners from Rullion Green were taken to Edinburgh and
incarcerated in a small room in St Giles Cathedral, called  Haddo`s Hole. The alleged leaders were held in the

martyrsmon.jpg (40955 bytes)
and rapidly hauled before the Court for trial. Ten of
their number were hung on December 7, 1666 . After death
their right hands were cut off and sent to be nailed to
the prison door at Lanark and their severed heads sent to
their respective home areas to be exhibited as a warning.
Five more were executed on December 14 and six more on
December 22 – a bloody Christmas message indeed for the
Covenanters. They were the early victims whose remains
were buried in a corner of Greyfriars Kirk where stands
Martyrs` Monument.

there was a bloody price paid. In Ayr, eight men were
sentenced to hang but the official hangmen from Ayr and
nearby Irvine both declined to act. One of the prisoners,
Cornelius Anderson, was bribed, made drunk and acted as
hangman for the remaining seven. Anderson also acted as
hangman at the execution of two more Covenanters in

 In Glasgow
four men were executed on December 19, 1666 and two more
in Dumfries on January 2, 1667. For the lucky ones, if such it was, the
prisons were overflowing with Covenanters and many were
transported to slavery in the West Indies and the American

So it was
that the Pentland Rising was put down but it left a fear
in the government: they had seen that the Covenanters were
capable of banding together and could be an effective
military force. On the other hand, the excesses of
retribution by the Duke of Rothes were subject to
political pressures and he was replaced in 1667 by John
Maitland, Earl and later Duke of Lauderdale, a more humane
man under whom repression eased for a while – but only for
a while !

Rullion Green by Prof. John Stuart Blackie

Say not
that they were harsh and stern and sour,
Or say they were so, but not therefore base;
In iron times God sends with mighty power
Iron apostles to make smooth His ways;
And hearts of rock, close – clamped with many a bar.
He plants where angry billows lash the shore;
Thus love by fear, thus peace is pledged by war-
(Stern law !) and gospel paths are paved in gore;
We reap in ease what they did sow in toil,
And rate them harsh, and stern, and sour the while.

warriors, rest ! God from that ill wrought good;
Your strong endurance wrought  strong hate of wrong,
Let dark Dunnottar`s dungeon solitude,
And the strong Bass, attest your sufferings long;
No polished pen, no smooth and courtly verse,
Ye need to prove the virtue of your crime;
Pentland`s green slopes, and the black moors o` the Merse
Shall be your record to remotest time;
Ourselves your sons, inheriting your stuff
While we are worthy, shall be praise enough. 

The Pentland Hills by Baroness Nairne.

pilgrim`s feet here oft will tread
O`er this sequestered scene,
To mark where Scotland`s martyrs lie
In lonely Rullion Green;
To muse on those who fought and fell –
All Presbyterians true;
Who held the League and Covenant –
Who waved the banner blue !

Ah !
here they sang the holy strain –
Sweet Martyr`s melody;
When every heart and every voice
Arose in harmony.
The list`ing  echoes all around
Gave back their soft reply,
While angels heard the hallow`d sound,
And bore it to the sky.

Alpin McGregor in his Buried Barony  (1949)
tells how as a schoolboy he had heard the annual service
at Flotterstane Haugh Field, and in 1945  he attended
the first post war service there. When I visited the
Rullion Green memorial in April 1999 the farmer assured me
that there were regular and very well attended meetings
still held each year.

Proclamation of rebellion 4 December 1666

Moor 12 June 1648

1 June 1679

Bothwell Brig
22 June 1679

Ayrs Moss 22
July 1680

A poem about
the Whigs and Rullion Green (S Colvin, 1711).

Music commemorating the
Pentland Rising; courtesy George Robertson, ( a descendant of Covenanter
John Whitelaw ).