Thurs been a murrrdur at Magnus Muir – A wee jaggy bit o’ history

“………..Ach, there’s murder at Firhill every second Saturday!

Well not quite in the realm of Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jim Taggart, you will probably have to be a Scot to appreciate the in-joke made at the expense of Partick Thistle but this unusual pyramid shaped monument marks the spot where a Bishop was murdered way back in May 1679.

The memorial to James Sharp at Magnus Muir.

The memorial to James Sharp at Magnus Muir.

The memorials latin inscription

Latin inscription

Latin inscription

His murder stems, like seemingly all things in Scotland from religion.

The story so far — James VI (James I of England), Charles I & II and James II decided to run the church after a catholic fashion, after all they were the supreme rulers. But they did not reckon on a bunch of Scots Presbyterians who just wanted to practice worshiping God in the new “no frills” Protestant way. So they signed a Deed of Covenant and the doo-doo hit the fan.

Sharp who was Archbishop of St. Andrews and therefore the most important Bishop in Scotland, sided with the Crown, backing King Charles II and his Act of Supremacy in direct opposition to the Covenanters, who wanted independence of worship from the crown.

Sharp made himself unpopular when the is supposed to have condemned eleven prisoners from the Battle of Runion Green, who had surrendered with a promise of mercy.

A band of assassins had assembled at Magnus Muir with the intention of killing the Sheriff of Fife, whose job it was to suppress the Covenanters rise against the government’s religious policy, when word arrived that Archbishop Sharp was on the road, travelling by coach to St.Andrews with his eldest daughter Isobel. The Bishop was just too good a person not to kill, so they dragged Sharp from his coach and murdered in front of his daughter before making their escape.

Jump forward a bit.
The Covenanters went head to head with the Kings forces at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in June 1679, which did not go well for the Covenanters and large number of them were captured following their defeat. Five of whom; Thomas Brown of Edinburgh, James Wood of Newmilns, Andrew Sword of Galloway, John Weddell of New Monklands and John Clyde of Kilbride (none of whom were Fifers) were hanged on 25 December 1679 for refusing to divulge information to help identify the perpetrators.

The travesty was they were not involved in the murder and were made scapegoats. The five were taken to Magus Muir where they were executed and their bodies hung in chains until until the Glorious Revolution in 1688, which brought William of Orange from Holland to the British throne.  The were hanged in chains for refusing to sign a declaration not to rebel again, such was the conviction that the Covenanters had that they were willing to die for their cause.

Covenanter's Grave, Magnus Muir

Covenanter’s Grave, Magnus Muir

 

The inscription reads

“Here lies Thos Brown, James Wood, Andrew Sword, John Weddell & John Clyde who suffered martyrdom on Magnus Muir for their adherence to the Word of God and Scotland’s Covenanted Work of Reformation. Nov 25, 1679”

Of the real murderers David Hackson, of Rathillet, was captured after a brave fight at Ayrsmoss and was executed in a very barbarous way 30 July 1680, “at the cross of Edinburgh, and there upon a high scaffold have his right hand struck off, and after some time to have his left hand struck off, and then to be hanged up and cut down alive, and have the bowels taken out, and his heart to be shown to the people by the hand of the hangman, and his heart and bowels to be burnt in the presence of the people… and afterwards have his head cut off, and his body divided up into four quarters with his head to be affixed at Netherbow, and one of his quarters with both his hands to be affixed at St. Andrews, another quarter at Glasgow, the third at Leith the fourth at Burntisland.”
The other known culprit, Andrew Guillan was hung drawn and quartered like David Hackson at St.Andrews in 1683 and is buried at a private burial ground at the nearby Claremont Farm.

That’s all for now but there’s one thing for sure….
Mair tae come

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