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The Pentland Rising

The following is from The Pentland Rising by Robert Louis Stevenson:

II - The Beginning

I love no warres,
I love no jarres,
    Nor strife’s fire.
May discord cease,
Let’s live in peace:
    This I desire.

If it must be
Warre we must see
    (So fates conspire),
May we not feel
The force of steel:
    This I desire.

T. JACKSON, 1651
[Fuller’s “Historie of the Holy Warre,” fourth ed. 1651.]

UPON Tuesday, November 13th, 1666, Corporal George Deanes and three other soldiers set upon an old man in the clachan of Dairy and demanded the payment of his fines. On the old man’s refusing to pay, they forced a large party of his neighbours to go with them and thresh his corn. The field was a certain distance out of the clachan, and four persons, disguised as countrymen, who had been out on the moors all night, met this mournful drove of slaves, compelled by the four soldiers to work for the ruin of their friend. However, chilled to the bone by their night on the hills, and worn out by want of food, they proceeded to the village inn to refresh themselves. Suddenly some people rushed into the room where they were sitting, and told them that the soldiers were about to roast the old man, naked, on his own girdle. This was too much for them to stand, and they repaired immediately to the scene of this gross outrage, and at first merely requested that the captive should be released. On the refusal of the two soldiers who were in the front room, high words were given and taken on both sides, and the other two rushed forth from an adjoining chamber and made at the countrymen with drawn swords. One of the latter, John M’Lellan of Barscob, drew a pistol and shot the corporal in the body. The pieces of tobacco-pipe with which it was loaded, to the number of ten at least, entered him, and he was so much disturbed that he never appears to have recovered, for we find long afterwards a petition to the Privy Council requesting a pension for him. The other soldiers then laid down their arms, the old man was rescued, and the rebellion was commenced. [Wodrow, vol. ii. p. 17.]

And now we must turn to Sir James Turner’s memoirs of himself; for, strange to say, this extraordinary man was remarkably fond of literary composition, and wrote, besides the amusing account of his own adventures just mentioned, a large number of essays and short biographies, and a work on war, entitled “Pallas Armata.” The following are some of the shorter pieces: “Magick,” “Friendship,” “Imprisonment,” “Anger,” “Revenge,” “Duells,” “Cruelty,” “A Defence of some of the Ceremonies of the English Liturgie—to wit—Bowing at the Name of Jesus, The frequent repetition of the Lord’s Prayer and Good Lord deliver us, Of the Doxologie, Of Surplesses, Rotchets, Cannonicall Coats,” etc. From what we know of his character we should expect “Anger” and “Cruelty” to be very full and instructive. But what earthly right he had to meddle with ecclesiastical subjects it is hard to see.

Upon the 12th of the month he had received some information concerning Gray’s proceedings, but as it was excessively indefinite in its character, he paid no attention to it. On the evening of the 14th, Corporal Deanes was brought into Dumfries, who affirmed stoutly that he had been shot while refusing to sign the Covenant—a story rendered singularly unlikely by the after conduct of the rebels. Sir James instantly despatched orders to the cessed soldiers either to come to Dumfries or meet him on the way to Dairy, and commanded the thirteen or fourteen men in the town with him to come at nine next morning to his lodging for supplies.

On the morning of Thursday the rebels arrived at Dumfries with 50 horse and 150 foot. Neilson of Corsack, and Gray, who commanded, with a considerable troop, entered the town, and surrounded Sir James Turner’s lodging. Though it was between eight and nine o’clock, that worthy, being unwell, was still in bed, but rose at once and went to the window.

Neilson and some others cried, “You may have fair quarter.”

“I need no quarter,” replied Sir James; “nor can I be a prisoner, seeing there is no war declared.” On being told, however, that he must either be a prisoner or die, he came down, and went into the street in his night-shirt. Here Gray showed himself very desirous of killing him, but he was overruled by Corsack. However, he was taken away a prisoner, Captain Gray mounting him on his own horse, though, as Turner naïvely remarks, “there was good reason for it, for he mounted himself on a farre better one of mine.” A large coffer containing his clothes and money, together with all his papers, were taken away by the rebels. They robbed Master Chalmers, the Episcopalian minister of Dumfries, of his horse, drank the King’s health at the market cross, and then left Dumfries. [Sir J. Turner’s “Memoirs,” pp. 148-50.]

III - The March of the Rebels


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