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


they were
called to confess, they would stand for it

with life
and estate ; but it is thought that Christians now stand

upon some
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

small things,

let them
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.


Ay !
bonnie hills of Galloway! the clouds above ye driven

Make pleasant shadows in your depths, with glints and
of heaven;

And ye
have fairy, hidden lakes, deep in your secret breast

shine out suddenly like stars, as the sunbeams go to


And ye
have dells, and greenwood nooks, and little valleys


Where the wild bee bows the harebell down, beside the

rill ;

And over all, grey Cairnsmore glooms -a monarch stern

and lone,

the heather climbs his barrenness, and purples half his throne!


bonnie hills of Galloway ! oft have I stood to see

At sunset
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,

And it
was not for the heather she was called “the purple land,”

And it
was not for their loveliness her children blessed their God

For the
secret places of the hills, and the mountain heights untrod.—


Oh ! as a
rock, those memories still breast time’s surging flood,

Her more
than twice ten torture years of agony and blood !

 A lurid
beacon-light they gleam upon her pathway now,

They sign
her with the Saviour’s seal—His cross upon her brow!

And never
may the land whose flowers spring fresh from martyr graves

moment’s parley hold with Rome—her mimics—or her slaves,

A moment
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 !

So rank
and high the tomb weeds wave, around that humble stone,

Ye scarce
may trace the legend rude — with lichen half o’ergrown‑

But ask
the seven years’ child that sits beside the broken wall,

He will
not need to spell it o’er—his heart hath stored it all!


peasant’s tale — a humble grave two names on earth unknown,

But Jesus
bears them on His heart, before the eternal throne !

And kings
and heroes yet shall come to wish their lot were bound

those poor women slumbering, beneath the wave-girt ground !

The earth
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,—

Ay !
Earth had many martyrs—but these two were of the sea !


redcoats, lass ! the redcoats !” cry the weans from off the street ;

Who knows
but Claver’se’s evil eye may blast them if they meet !

Nay !
only Bruce and Windram come; but, oh ! was worth the way

They have
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 ;

She reeks
not of her bleeding feet—her frame so worn and weak;

She sees
not even the pitying looks that follow as she goes,

Her soul
is filled so full with prayer—that God alone she knows!

Long hath
she looked for such a day with awe and shudder­ing dread;

terror in the night hath fallen—haunting her cavern bed;

And she
hath prayed in agony, that if He might not spare,

would bear her charges then—and He hath heard her prayer!


They have
brought her to their judgment-hall a narrow prison-room,

And once
she look’d up, as they crossed, from sunlight into gloom,

And a
sound of bitter weeping close beside her now she hears –

And she
wished her hands unshackled, just to dry her mother’s tears !

They have
questioned of her wanderings—they have mocked her with their words ;

They have
asked her if the Covenant, could shield her from their swords;

Or if she
sought a miracle to test her call the more–

That she
ventured to her father’s home — right past the curate’s door!


questioned her with cruel taunts — and waited for reply ;

She met
her father’s look of woe—her mother’s streaming eye,—

A moment
quivered all her frame— strange gaspings choked her breath,

Then fell
the words forth, one by one, as from the lips of death :–

blink of our own ingle—it came glancing o’er the tide,

And we
were wet and weary both upon the mountain side;

My very
heart grew sick within—my father’s face to see,

And Annie
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 !”

There was
a murmur through the crowd—first hope, and then despair,

For in
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 !”


Alas! it
is a little stroke draws from the flint the fire,

And but a
little spark may light the martyr’s funeral‑pyre-

And in
the hearts of evil men such mischiefs smouldering herd,

cruel thought, to cruel deed, may kindle at a word.

 “Ho! ho
! the sea! the raging sea! and can it tame your pride ?

My sooth
! we’ll frame a Covenant with the advancing tide ;‑

To-morrow—when the dawn is chill—in Blednoch Bay we’ll see

What mild
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;

As if
smit with sudden blindness—she goes groping from the door,

And they
hinder her to follow—who shall see her face no more !

But the
father! Oh, the father he was a timid man and weak,

still with every time –he had his faith to seek;

And now,
within his heart and brain, a dreadful sound lie hears,

A sound
of rushing waters—but they find no vent in tears!


God help
him! He hath need of prayer—and knows not how to pray ;

He gasps
out vain appeals to men who scoff, and turn away;

Madly he
grovels in the dust—in desperate anguish now-‑

Until he
feels his Margaret’s kiss, like dew upon his brow.

“God help
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 !”


—It’ is
the solemn evening hour—the seal of that sad day,

And the
rich purple of the hills is blending all to grey;

And from
the cloud thrones of the west, the last bright gleam bath fled,

And the
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:

 For his
poor life—and those poor hoards—the Cross he dared to shun,

proffered now for his


they have bought

him one!


He sits
beside his blackened hearth — unconscious of its gloom

A chill
bath gathered at his heart—that mocks at that cold room;

There is
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,

Strays in
the darkness tremblingly amid his Annie’s hair—

saving that the mother’s moan at times will make him start,

Ye might
have deemed—the mighty grief had burst the feeble heart!


prison bars are stark and strong, to shut out light and air,

And yet
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,

As though
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!


A solemn
place—a solemn time–for parted friends to meet,

Yet in
the same extremity–their communing is sweet;

And while
in prayer and praise, fleet by the watches of the night, –‑

like the moonbeam, enters in —and floods the grave with light

Oh! youth
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,

The other
stays her age on Him–who never can forsake!


Long had
they loved—as Christians love, those two, so soon to die,

And each
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,

And each
looked humbly, thankfully, into the other’s face

He rules the awful sea — with all its waters wild “‑

“The many
waters are His voice — of love to thee, my child!”


— The
guards .are met — the stakes are set — deep, deep within the sand,

One far
toward the advancing tide, one nearer to the land;

And all
along the narrow shore, that girdles in the bay,

groups of anxious watchers come—as wane the stars away!

Low lie
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;

And thus,
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,

And made
her cast with impulse strong, the sea – weed crown away !

Oft would
they seek, with mirthful wile, to lure her to the stra.nd,

Or hide
the sea – shell ‘mid the flowers she grasped with eager hand,

But in it
still a whisper stirred, that shook her soul with fears,

And much
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;

And there
were blank and hopeless looks—white lips, dry parched with fear,

murmurs— suddenly suppressed, lest they who rule should hear -,

And men,
bowed down with women’s tears—until the sod was wet,—-‑

Bothwell Brig unnerved their arm, and crushed their manhood vet.

Woe for
the land  !  the despot’s rule hath lined its soil with graves,

And left
beneath the frown of God—but taskmasters and slaves!


Woe for
the land! Aye, gaze ye here ! ye, who would school the soul

From its
high conscience -post of trust—to bow to your control

The work
is done! the strife is won! the conflict passed away –

Rule o’er
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

Only a
seed the mountains keep, till God’s good time shall come

And the
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

Or pray
the breakers, if ye will they race not in so fast !”

Her grey
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,

And now
toward her own death-place they guide her silently.

A sudden
impulse swayed the crowd, as those young limbs were bound—

moment’s movement stilled as soon—a shiver through a wound

And they
have left her all alone—- with that strong seabefore—

A prayer
of faith’s extremity, faint mingling with its roar–‑

And on
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‑

Now tell
us, lass ! what dainty cheer allures them in the bay?”

A change
hath passed on that young brow—a glow—a light from heaven,

Above the
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

Her fear
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,

And still
the song of faith and praise swells louder, clearer yet,

While to
her feet the foam wreathes curl— and the dry sand grows wet!


—A yell
!—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

A haggard
man hath gained the bay, with bloodshot eyes and wild,

And cast
him down at Windram’s feet, and shrieked— ” My child! my child!”

Margaret heard—as died her song in one convulsive gasp—

And the
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;

I found
one heart that pitied me, though all were stone beside

Ye said
that for a hundred pounds, the oaths ye’d proffer still

Spare the
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!”

But two
strong swimmers, at the word, plunge headlong in the wave,

reach the stake—the cords they break !—not, not too late to save !


And women
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

to her

And steals his hand up to her heart—to count its earliest

beat !

Just then—athwart two glooming clouds—the morning sun

made way,

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

smile !

Come, gir], be ruled! tliou’st proved enough, methinks, yon


Will find the partans ” fitter food, than these young limbs

of thine

Hold off, and let me near to her! beshrew this snivelling

ring ;‑

Ho, lass! stand up upon thy feet, and pray, ‘God save the

king !’

“To die unsaved were horrible, ” she said with low, sad

voice ;

” Oh, yes ! God save him if He will ! the angels would

rejoice !


Then up
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 !

A spare,
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

He knew
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 ;

For me,
I’d rather fight with men, than choke this woman‑kind.

Bid her
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,”

And then,
as angry brows grew dark, and women muttered loud,

He shrank
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,

For ever,
ever whispering, above the martyr’s grave;

heard at night—’tis heard at noon—the same low wail­ing song,

In murmur
loud—in cadence low—” How long, O Lord—how long!”

A cry
against thee from the tide ! O tyrant, banned of Heaven !

It meets
the blood-voice of the earth—and answer shall be given !

A little
while—the cup fills fast—it overflows for thee—

And thine
extremity shall prove, the vengeance of the sea !


Ay !
gnash thy teeth in impotence ! the fated hour is come

And ocean
– with her strength of waves – bears the avenger home.

See !
eager thousands throng the shore, to hail the advancing fleet,

baffled Dartmouth vainly strives, that heaven-sent foe to meet;

And post
on hurrying post crowds fast, with tidings of dismay,

How the
glassed waters lull, to aid the landing of Torbay.

Away !
prepare thy coward flight—thy sceptre scourge cast down

The sea
pursues thee with its curse—thou king without a crown !