Captain Thomas Douglas

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Thomas Douglas was captain of a company of Mar’s Regiment of Foot during the Covenanting times.

The Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot, which was raised in Scotland to suppress the Covenanters, during what has been called the Second Whig Revolt. That revolt lasted a year or so, between 1678 and 1679, but the persecution of the Covenanters went on for some time afterwards, reaching its peak in the 'Killing Times'.

The Earl of Mar at that time was Charles Erskine, the 5th Earl. Erskine was a Stuart loyalist, which meant he was a supporter of the Catholic king, James VII & II, who had a troubles with the Covenanters before he was usurped by his daughter and her first cousin, William of Orange, who became King William II & III and his Protestant wife, James Stuart's daughter, became Queen Mary II & II.

After the Whig Revolt, Mar's Regiment was used ostensibly to “keep the peace and put down brigands, mercenaries, and rebels.” In fact, the regiment that came to be nicknamed 'the Earl of Mar's Gray Breeks' was involved in some serious persecution of the Covenanters, most all of whom were innocent of any real wrongdoing.

The Covenanters had been around for many years, since before the Bishop's Wars and the time of Montrose. However, by the time Mar's Regiment got involved, the Covenanters referred to were really just the ordinary Presbyterian worshippers. They just wanted to be left in peace to worship after their own fashion, but King James was having none of that. The ordinary peasants and their ministers were forced to hide and have their services in the fields, in makeshift 'churches' behind a ditch or a drystane wall or under a tree, in what became known as Conventicles.

Captain Thomas Douglas of Mar’s Regiment of Foot ‘in Galloway, committed much outrage and spoil’, and Lieutenant William Burnett of Barnes in Captain Thomas Douglas’ company of Mar’s Regiment of Foot ‘also in the same Shire [of Galloway] took much Spoyl.’ (1) Captain Thomas Douglas, who is also alleged to have been 'quite careless in his choice of those executed'.

Thomas Douglas's company were as much feared fo their plundering as for their pursuit of Covenanters.  The soldiers responsible for the killing were under the command of Captain Thomas Douglas and were a company in the Earl of Mar’s Regiment of Foot. 'Finding one Achenleck (Robert Auchinleck), a deaf man, for not making answer, thro’ defect of his hearing instantly shot him dead off horseback, near Carlinwork, Anno 1685'.  There are variations on the story involving a youth who was also said to have been shot as he tried to escape on his horse.  The troopers then sole his mount, and that of Auchinleck.

In the Borgue parish, also in 1685, Douglass 'seized a tailor, Robert McWhae and shot him dead, only because he had some small Pieces of Lead about him, such as the tailors put in the sleeves of women’s clothes'. Variations exist on this story, or perhaps conflated with that of a beggar, and that of the tailor, who might have been called McWhae.

The beggar could be  Robert McWhae, or someone named Mowat – or M’Whae may have been recorded as Mowat. Almost nothing is known about M’Whae except for the record of his gravestone which says that he was shot. Mowat was described as a tailor who was shot when he was discovered with the lead weights of his trade in Galloway. But as we have seen, this appears to be Auchinleck.

From the inscription on Hallume's grave marker, it appears that Captain Douglas was involved in both Hallume’s capture and execution. However, it is likely that Lieutenant Livingstone was responsible for John Hallume’s capture in Tongland parish, Kirkcudbrightshire and that Captain Douglas tried and executed him.

David Houston held a conventicle at the Polbaith Burn in yhe Kilmarnock parish, Ayrshire on Sunday 16th January 1687. In the aftermath the field preaching, thirty-eight people were identified as among those who had attended. Within five days of it, Captain Thomas Douglas of Mar’s Regiment of Foot had captured seventeen prisoners. Two more were taken at a later date.  Many were brought before Captain Thomas Douglas at Ayr on 21st January 1687, some of whom the went before the privy council in Edinburgh.  George White, a weaver boy, was banished to Barbados on Mr Croft’s Ship in April, 1687. It seems the remainder were all liberated.

Mar's Regiment converted to fusiliers and became the Scots Fusilier Regiment of Foot in 1689, the year of the 'Glorious Revolution'. However, when James VII & II fled to Ireland, it changed sides. The following century, during the War of the Spanish Succession , the regiment performed with distinction, gaining the nickname of 'the Duke of Marlborough's Own' and in 1712, became the Royal Scots Fusilier Regiment of Foot. (See footnote)

Covenanters Section
  • The Killing Times
  • Battle of Bothwell Brig
  • The Wreck of The Crown
  • Henry & Francis
  • Jamie Douglas - poem
  • Incident at Martyrs Moss
  • Col James Douglas
  • Battle of Airds Moss
  • Battle of Bothwell Brig
  • Battle of Drumclog
  • List of Covenanters
  • Rev. Thomas Douglas
  • Capt. Thomas Douglas
  • Col Richard Douglas's Regt
  • Sir James Douglas of Mouswald’s Regiment of Foot
  • Colonel Robert Douglas’ Regiment of Foot
  • Colonel William Douglas of Kilhead’s Regiment of Horse
  • The storm of Dundee
  • Sir William Douglas’ Regiment of Foot
  • Sir William Douglas’ Troop of Horse
  • Notes:
    1.  Several officers' activities put a stain on the name of Mar’s Regiment of Foot included Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Buchan, “a most violent persecuter” who helped himself to upwards of 4000 pounds Scots; Majors Andrew White (who later became the Lieutenant-governor of Edinburgh Castle) and John Balfour; Captains Thomas Douglas and John Dalziel; and Lieutenants William White, William Burnett of Barnes (the great-grandson of the 'Hoolet of Barns') who was known to have appropriated “much Spoyl” and John Bell, who shot a man called William Paterson at Strathaven Castle, without any trial, for refusing the abjuration.
    2.  The Royal North British Regiment of Fusiliers derives its origin from the commotions in Scotland, during the reign of King Charles II., who attempted to establish Episcopacy in that country; but was opposed by the Presbyterians, who wished to adhere to their religious institutions, and prosecutions being used in Scotland by the Government, to enforce obedience, collisions occurred between the inhabitants and the military, which were sometimes attended with loss of life. Several Highland clans were called out, in 1678, and quartered upon the Presbyterians, and in the autumn of the same year a regiment of foot was added to the military establishment of Scotland, of which Charles, Earl of Mar, was appointed Colonel, by commission dated the 23rd of September, 1678: this corps, having been retained in the service, now bears the title of the 21st Regiment of Foot, or the Royal North British Fusiliers.

    In the summer of 1693, in Flanders, the North British Fusiliers accompanied King William to the vicinity of Tirlemont. The regiment had Captains Campbell and Strayton, Lieutenants Douglas and Dunbar, and Adjutant Walle wounded; Captain Paterson taken prisoner; also a number of soldiers killed, wounded, and prisoners.

    At the battle of Blenheim, on the 13th of August 1704, Lieutenant J. Douglas was amongst the wounded.

    In the summer of 1803, in Ireland, Lieutenant Douglas, who commanded the light company, and Adjutant Brady, particularly distinguished themselves, and were each presented with a piece of plate by the city of Dublin, accompanied with the expression of the gratitude and admiration of the citizens, for their gallant exertions.

    Comment: The connections between Thomas Douglas and the Lieutenant Douglases are not known.

    3.  Thomas may be the son of William Douglas, 11th of Cavers. He is described as  the brother german (i.e., half brother) to the deceased laird of Cavers. This would be Sir William, 12th laird who died in 1698  and was succeeded by his brother, Archibald.  This Thomas had a son, Andrew, who was Paymaster to the navy.



    Sources for this article include:
  • Book of Martyrs; Dr Mark Jardine
  • Ian Colville

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