The Killing Times


Genealogical Research

Walking Tours of Leith

The Siege of Leith
Sir Andrew Wood
Mary Queen of Scots

Templar Treasure
Jealousy of Edinburgh

Civil War
Templars in Leith
Leith and the Holy Grail

Templars & Tau Cross
Morton & Witchcraft

South Leith Parish Church
Great Plague
Killing Times

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It's recorded in the records of the Kirk Session of South Leith Parish Church the following statement "12th May 1644 Being ye Lords day it was intimat be ye minister befor noon yat those persons were excomunicat viz Erle of Montrose,Lodovick Erle of Crawford, Robert Erle of Nithsdail, James Vicont of Aboyn, James Lord Ogilvie and John Lord Heres." All these nobles were leading Royalists in Scotland against whom the Covenanters were waging war. The sentence of excommunication (which still exists to this day in the Church of Scotland ) carried with it serious Civil as well as spiritual penalties. In fact they could be declared rebels and were liable to be shot on sight.

The most famous name on the list above was the Earl of Montose. James Graham Ist Marquess (1612-50). Son of the 5th Earl of Montrose, he was born in 1612 and was educated at St Andrew's University. In 1637 he took a active part in drawing up the National Covenant, whose signatories bound themselves to maintain the Presbyterian faith as the religion of Scotland, in opposition to Charles I . He was soon found himself in complete opposition to the Presbyterians, and when the Scottish Army entered England in alliance with the English Parliament in 1644, Montrose raised a army of Highlanders on behalf of the King. Created a Marquess he conducted a series of brilliant campaigns until his defeat at Philiphaugh on September 23 1645.Montrose escaped abroad but later returned landing at Caithness in 1650. However this time he was defeated almost straightaway at Carbisdale and then he was captured at the hands of Macleod of Assynt. Montose was sent to Edinburgh and led up the Royal Mile bound and bareheaded led by the public Hangman. He was to be hanged, beheaded and quartered. In prison before his execution he wrote:

"Let them bestowed on ev'ry airt a limb
Open all my veins,that I may swim
To Thee my Saviour in that crimson lake
Then place my pur-boiled head upon a stake
Scater my ashes, throw them in the air
Lord (since Thou know'st where all these atoms are)
I'm hopeful, once Thou'lt recollest my dust
And confident Thou'lt raise me with the just."

A few years earlier again in the Kirk records there is a further interesting note from the 6th April 1641:
"The Sessione ordained bendrie Chrystie or Church Officer to have from or Church Thesaurer 40 marks mony and yt for his loss of ye church yaird grass this bygone zeir by resone of ye breaches and toune wall built for ye common use. The qlk soume of 40 marks he (ie the Treasurer) did before pay to his predecessars. The Sessione also ordained ye Hendrie Chrystie to have the samyn soume everie zeir until ye church yaird be put close and in ye old integretie"

The reason for this was the differences between King Charles and the Covenanters were brought to a head in the riot begun by Jenny Geddas in St Giles Cathedral on the 23rd July 1637. From that day there existed a state of war and Leith started to rebuild its walls and fortifications. The wall of the Churchyard was used as part of the fortification and so the beadle had lost part of the churchyard which he had let out as pasture hence the payment of 40 marks.

By 1679 the Covananters were defeated at Bothwell Bridge by the Duke of Monmouth and the prisoners sent to Edinburgh to be confined for five months in the Inner Grayfriar yard at Grayfriar's Church. After which the survivors who would not conform or give up their Presbyterian views were marched to Leith down the Easter Road to be sent as slaves to the Plantations. As they came down the road to the Shore across the open fields they would have seen the Gallow Lee (which was just up from Pilrig), Leith's place for Public execution. The body of David Hackston of Rathillet hung in chains and swinging in the wind. He had held of the Royalist troops for hours at Bothwell Bridge. Later Hackston's remains were removed and a further five Convanters were hanged and buried at the Gallow Lee and their heads spiked above the city gates. Later the heads and bodies were buried beneath the Martyr's Monument in Grayfriars Churchyard. The Prisoner's didn't reach the plantations as their ship sunk of the Orkneys with a loss of over 200 of the prisoners. The captain of the "Crown" had a reputation of being "a profane and cruel wretch.

Despite their defeat the beliefs of the covananters were not in vain but that story is for next month. If you are into local history why not check out the "History of Leith" Web Site at