Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of
the Scottish Border
The Battle of Pentland Hills
|We have observed the early antipathy mutually entertained by the Scottish Presbyterians and the house of Stuart. It seems to have glowed in the breast even of the good-natured Charles II. He might have remembered, that, in 1651, the Presbyterians had fought, bled, and ruined themselves in his cause. But he rather recollected their earlier faults than their late repentance; and even their services were combined with the recollection of the absurd and humiliating circumstances of personal degradation, * to which their pride and folly had subjected him, while they professed to espouse his cause. As a man of pleasure, he hated their stern and inflexible rigour, which stigmatized follies even more deeply than crimes; and he whispered to his confidante that "Presbytery was no religion for a gentleman." It is not, therefore, wonderful, that, in the first year of his restoration, he formally re-established Prelacy in Scotland; but it is surprising, that, with his father's example before his eyes, he should not have been satisfied to leave at freedom the consciences of those who could not reconcile themselves to the new system. The religious opinions of sectaries have a tendency, like the water of some springs, to become soft and milk, when freely exposed to the open day. Who can recognize, in our decent and industrious Quakers, and Anabaptists, the wild and ferocious tenets which distinguished those sects, while they were yet honoured with the distinction of the scourge and the pillory? Had the system of coercion against the Presbyterians been continued until another day, Blair and Robertson would have preached in the wilderness, and only discovered their powers of eloquence and composition, by rolling along a deeper torrent of gloomy fanaticism.
The western counties distinguished themselves by their opposition to the prelatic system. Three hundred and fifty ministers, ejected from their churches and livings, wandered through the mountains, sowing the seeds of covenanted doctrine, while multitudes of fanatical followers pursued them, to reap the forbidden crop. These conventicles, as they were called, were denounced by the law, and their frequenters dispersed by military force. The genius of the persecuted became stubborn, obstinate, and ferocious; and although indulgences were tardily granted to some Presbyterian ministers, few of the true Covenanters, or Whigs, as they were called, would condescend to compound with a prelatic government, or to listen even to their own favourite doctrine under the auspices of the King. From Richard Cameron, their apostle, this rigid sect acquired the name of Cameronians. They preached and prayed against the indulgence, and against the Presbyterians who availed themselves of it, because their accepting this royal boon was a tacit acknowledgement of the King's supremacy in ecclesiastical matters. Upon these bigoted and persecuted fanatics, and by no means upon the Presbyterians at large, are to be charged the wild anarchical principles of anti-monarchy and assassination, which polluted the period when they flourished.
The insurrection, commemorated and magnified in the following ballad, as indeed it has been in some histories, was, in itself, no very important affair. It began in Dumfries-shire, where Sir James Turner, a soldier of fortune, was employed to levy the arbitrary fines imposed for not attending the Episcopal churches. ** The people rose, seized his person, disarmed his soldiers, and, having continued together, resolved to march towards Edinburgh, expecting to be joined by their friends in that quarter. In this they were disappointed; and, being now diminished to half their numbers, they drew up on the Pentland Hills, at a place called Rullien Green. They were commanded by one Wallace; and here they awaited the approach of General Dalziel, of Binns; who, having marched to Calder, to meet them on the Lanark road, and finding, that, by passing through Collington, they had got to the other side of the hills, cut through the mountains and approached them. Wallace showed both spirit and judgment; he drew up his men in a very strong situation, and withstood two charges of Dalziel's cavalry; but, upon the third shock, the insurgents were broken and utterly dispersed. There was very little slaughter, as the cavalry of Dalziel were chiefly gentlemen, who pitied their oppressed and misguided countrymen. There were about fifty killed, and as many made prisoners. The battle was fought on the 28th November, 1666; a day still observed by the scattered remnant of the Cameronian sect, who regularly hear a field-preaching upon the field of battle.
I am obliged for a copy of the ballad to Mr. Livingston of Airds, who took it down from the recitation of an old woman residing on his estate.
The gallant Grahams, mentioned in the text, are the Graham of Claverhouses' horse.
THE BATTLE OF PENTLAND HILLS
This ballad is copied verbatim from the old Woman's Recitation.
The gallant Grahams cam from the west,
Wi' their horses black as ony craw;
To Lothian lads they marched fast,
To be at the Rhyns o' Gallowa',
Betwixt Dumfries town and Argyle,
The lads they marched many a mile;
Souters and tailors unto them drew,
Their covenants for to renew.
The Whigs, they, wi' their merry cracks,
Gar'd the poor pedlars lay down their pack
But aye sinsyne, they do repent
The renewing o' their Covenant.
At the Mauchline muir, where they were review'd,
Ten thousand men in armour show'd;
But, ere they came to the Brockie's burn,
The half of them did back return.
General Dalyell, as I hear tell,
Was our lieutenant-general;
And Captain Welsh, wi' his wit and skill,
Was to guide them on to the Pentland hill.
General Dalyell held to the hill,
Asking at them what was their will;
And who gave them this protestation,
To rise in arms against the nation?
"Although we all in armour be,
It's not against his majesty;
Nor yet to spill our neighbour's bluid,
But wi' the country we'll conclude." -
"Lay down your arms, in the King's name,
And ye shall a' gae safely hame;" -
But they a' cried out wi' ae consent,
"We'll fight for a broken Covenant." -
"O well," says he, "since it is so,
A wilfu' man never wanted wo."
He then gave a sign unto his lads,
And they drew up in their brigades.
The trumpets blew, and the colours flew,
And every man to his armour drew;
The Whigs were never so much aghast,
As to see their saddles toom *** sae fast.
The cleverest men stood in the van,
The Whigs they took their heels and ran;
But such a raking was never seen
As the raking o' the Rullien Green.
* Among other ridiculous occurrences, it is said, that some of Charles's gallantries were discovered by a prying neighbor. A wily old minister was deputed by his brethren to rebuke the King for this heinous scandal. Being introduced into the royal presence, he limited his commission to a serious admonition, that, upon such occasions, his Majesty should always shut the windows. The King is said to have recompensed this unexpected lenity after the Restoration. He probably remembered the joke, though he might have forgotten the service.
** Sir James Turner's Memoirs have been published lately. 1833.
*** Toom - empty.
to the The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Index Page