Spreul of Glasgow, Apothecary. Intercommuned fugitive,
horned, tortured, improperly convicted, prisoner on the
Bass Rock for over six years, who refused to be freed.

The story
of John Spreul (the younger) is remarkable. He was one of
the better off  Presbyterian tradesmen who was
targeted by a greedy government and its officials, keen to
seize all that he possessed. They came up against a man of 
great conscience, intelligence, and astuteness who used
the law against them and frustrated their objectives time
and time again, despite severe maltreatment, torture and
imprisonment. After many years of persecuting him 
the government finally gave up and  ordered his cell
door to be left open  so that Spreul could please
himself whether he stayed in prison or not.

Spreul, the elder, was a prosperous merchant in Paisley
and a staunch Presbyterian. During the time of Cromwell`s
Commonwealth he had been an adherent to the rights of King
Charles II and had refused to take the oath of loyalty
(called the Tender) to the Commonwealth as he considered
it inconsistent with the Covenants which he had earlier
sworn. Despite this modicum of loyalty he was nevertheless
labelled as a malcontent and fined five hundred merks when
Charles II was restored in
1660.   This he assumed to be because he refused
to conform to prelacy and listen to the curates. It was
believed that the Earl of Dundonald was his main
persecutor (a man who had taken the `Tender` but became a
Privy Councillor – so much for loyalty and conscience).

John Spreul was subsequently
pursued and was forced into hiding for several years.

Into this
staunch Covenanting family was born a son, John (the
younger) who was brought up of the same principles. A
marked man by reputation alone, he was seized by dragoons
under the command of General Dalziel of the Binns from his
father`s shop in Paisley. It was alleged that he was 
at the battle of Rullion Green
( November 1666) or had been intending to join them.
He was threatened
bullied, as was the custom, but revealed nothing and was
eventually released. John returned to his profession,
which was an apothecary. In that profession he had gained
a very good reputation  and was often sought after
when the needs of a surgeon arose, including military
officers and even Privy Councillors. But even these
influential contacts did not prevent him being summoned
before a Justiciary Court in Glasgow during 1677. He and a
friend, William Napier, who had also been summoned, went
to inquire of Lord Ross the reasons for the summons. At
worst, they thought, it would be for not hearing the
curates and nonconformity. However, they learned that
those who compeared to the summons were expected to be
harshly treated ( probably as an example to others) so he
and others did not attend. The consequence was that they
were declared rebels and intercommuned – all persons were
prohibited to talk to him, or to offer aid or assistance
of any kind, even food and drink. Those who did attend
court were jailed in Edinburgh and heavily fined.

John Spreul
was obliged to leave home and became a fugitive, spending
much time travelling abroad on business trips. When in
Scotland he resided quietly at Cartsdyke near Glasgow 
where he had a fishery business – curing herrings. As it
happened he was in Ireland when the battle of
Drumclog took place and was
still there when Archbishop
James Sharp was assassinated.
His absence abroad would
later safe his life. Returning from Dublin he learnt of
the events and that the Covenanters were in arms intent on
deposing King Charles II. He did not feel, in all
conscience, that he could support such an extreme aim,
neither did he have much faith in the leaders at the time
who were riven by disputes. This also meant that he was
not in arms at Bothwell Brig, although  his brother,
James, and two cousins were.

Tarred with
the same brush and anyway still a fugitive, John Spreul
was put to the horn and forefaulted, meaning that all he
owned, land, goods and gear, could be seized. The villain
of the piece then emerged – the Earl of Dundonald, who
coveted Spreul`s property. Dundonald and a magistrate went
to Glasgow and turned Spreul`s wife and family out of
their house without anything whatsoever; locked the shop
and secured all the windows and doors with chains.
However, the greedy Earl had overlooked the cellar which
contained a considerable quantity of valuable goods
imported from the continent. For this Spreul was grateful
and was able  to call in debts owed him, sell the
hidden store and gather sufficient to enable him to go to
Holland and seek a house for his family. He returned to
Edinburgh soon after to collect his family when his luck
ran out.

Spreul was
lodging with a Sarah Campbell, in the Cowgate, Edinburgh
when on the night of 2 November 1680 he was seized in his
bed by a Major Johnstone.  It occurred during one of
the many house to house searches that were made at that
time for the leader of the Cameronians, or Society People, 
– James Renwick. Spreul was taken before Dalziel who was
in the Canongate, and was threatened and bullied but
refused to be terrorised and told him he was a freeborn
British subject and demanded an open trial. Getting
nowhere with his questioning Dalziel ordered that Spreul
be taken to the guard house in the Abbey Yard. He was
thrown into a room with a Janet [ Marion ] Harvey  who had been
subject of unwanted attention by the prison guards, and
threatened with being raped. Their officer had attempted
an assault on her but she had managed to fend him off.
Thankfully the arrival of Spreul helped to cool passions.

In an
adjacent room were two Covenanting ministers Mr Alexander
Skene and Mr Archibald Stewart who, along with Spreul,
were taken before the Privy Council the next morning. He
was separately interrogated and at some considerable
length, mainly about acquaintance with Donald Cargill, his
opinion of the Sanquhar Declaration
and the assassination of Archbishop Sharp.  Following
the questioning they were ordered to be imprisoned but on
the way to their former cells they suddenly returned to
the Council chamber. This was so that they could subscribe
(sign) their earlier answers before the Lords Justiciary –
this would have made their statements legal documents and
likely confessions. Aware of the trick John Spreul refused
to sign and was threatened with torture by the boot.

On Monday
15 November 1680 Spreul was again brought before the Privy
Council where he was named with others to be tortured to
force answers to three questions : by what means and
reason is the murdering principle ( of government officers
and servant)  taught and carried on;  who were
accessories to murder and those to be murdered; and about
`Lord St. Andrew`s death`.  Spreul refused to answer
the questions and was promptly threatened again, but
gained a respite by declaring to the Lord President the
comment of St Augustine about torture:

it may well terrify, it will not teach, and when men are
only terrified and not taught, it makes the government
seem, yea to be, wicked and tyrannical.

John Spreul – Torture and conviction
by special Act of Council