Argyll's Rebellion, or Argyll's Rising

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In April 1685, Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll , son of the Marquis of Argyll, who had been executed in 1661, and Lady Margaret Douglas, eldest daughter of William Douglas, 7th Earl of Morton.

Archibald Campbell led a force in three small ships, the Anna, Sophia and David loaded with arms and munitions set sail from Holland. However, they went too far North and touched land in Orkney where two of the party, William Spence and William Blackader ( son of John ) were put ashore to gather information. They were quickly seized by royalist troops and the ships sailed on to Campbeltown, in Kintyre. They found only a tepid support and suffered the misfortune of losing their munitions and arms to the English who had seen them being stored at an old fort at Eilean Gheirrig. Argyll wanted to take decisive action and to march on Glasgow but was overruled and the forces were divided with Sir Patrick Hume and about five hundred soldiers, evading the forces of George Douglas, Earl of Dumbarton (commander of the Scottish army) reaching Kilpatrick in June 1685. But Argyll had set out for a friends house the night before and was subsequently captured at Inchannan, near Paisley, by two servants of Sir John Shaw of Greenock and assisted by a local weaver.

By this time, those sent came up to the earl, and fired at him while he was in the [White Cart] water: he got through the water, and presented a pocket pistol to some who met him upon the other side, but being spoiled with the water, it did not fire. One of them seeing this, cut him on the head with a broad sword. The laird of Greenock [Sir John Schaw] came up with another party [of militia from Renfrew], and immediately knew him, and seized him, and carried him in prisoner to the earl of Dumbarton at Glasgow. The country people, when they knew it was the earl, regretted what they had done most bitterly.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 296-7.)

He was soon in Edinburgh Castle and on 30 June 1685 lost his head to the “Maiden “, as had his illustrious father in 1661.

One consequence of Argyll`s attempt at rebellion was the incarceration of 167 Presbyterian prisoners in Dunnottar Castle because they might have supported him. In the August of 1685 some were released on giving an oath of allegiance and bond for good behaviour ; the remainder were sentenced to transportation. In Ayrshire and the south west during April 1685 George Barclay sought to preach up support for Argyll with little success. There was little support for Argyll`s rebellion from James Renwick and the Society People or Cameronians. Argyll himself had not been a particular friend to them. Between 1663 and 1681 he had been a member of the Privy Council including that which sentenced Donald Cargill. Although Renwick had sympathy with the aims because it was against Papacy , it was otherwise not consistent with aims of the Covenants; contained no reference to the Covenants and Presbyterian government; and it opened the door to charges of confederation with malignants.

There was some odium attached to the Scottish churchmen who had been involved in the wider issue of the Earl of Argyll`s plans and William Carstares, and Robert Baillie of Jerviswood were obvious targets for inquiries about the doings of Monmouth, Russell and Sydney. Carstares was cruelly tortured with the thumbkins for over an hour and a half and his testimony was used against Baillie even though a promise had been given that anything he said would not be so used. Baillie, already a very sick man and dying, was executed for his alleged, but unproven, involvement in the Rye House plot on 23 December 1684.

There is suggestion by Howie in his Scots Worthies that James Renwick might have been in the know about the plot as he was returning from Holland about that time. It is possible that Renwick might have encountered the Earl of Argyll and his supporters in Holland but Howie`s inference seems to be because the ship Renwick was travelling on stopped at Rye harbour, in Sussex – which is nowhere near Rye House in Hertfordshire. There is a school of thought that the Society people were approached to support the Argyll rebellion. Renwick himself was too canny for such action and disassociated himself and the Societies from it – even though the objectives would have suited their ends. An interesting suggestion in Thorbjorn Campbells “ Standing Witnesses “ is that there may have been an agreement with the Society People not to assist Argyll`s venture as, coincidentally, the Killing Time came to an end quite suddenly at that time.

‘By this time, those sent came up to the earl, and fired at him while he was in the [White Cart] water: he got through the water, and presented a pocket pistol to some who met him upon the other side, but being spoiled with the water, it did not fire. One of them seeing this, cut him on the head with a broad sword. The laird of Greenock [Sir John Schaw] came up with another party [of militia from Renfrew], and immediately knew him, and seized him, and carried him in prisoner to the earl of Dumbarton at Glasgow. The country people, when they knew it was the earl, regretted what they had done most bitterly.’ (Wodrow, History, IV, 296-7.)

Sources


Sources for this article include:
  • A Scots Earl in Covenanting Times; Willcock

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    Last modified: Wednesday, 18 July 2018