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sake the love of the world, and embrace the cross of Christ, and undergo the hatred of the world; he is full in enumerating the heads of truth to which he adheres, and national sins against which he bears witness; so that he passes scarce any point of truth touched in the former testimonies, though they are not so orderly disposed as in some others. He forewarns all of the hazard of approaching judgments, encourages the godly with a prospect of Christ's return to the land, and invites them to take hold of Him, and wrestle with Him for His return; withal deploring the case of the Church, on account of such wrestlers and mourners; and with a solemn farewell to earthly relations, friends, acquaintances and enjoyments, with a welcome of heavenly ones, he concludes his dying testimony; in the whole he gives evidence of one near and dear to Christ, and supported and strengthened by Him.
OGETHER with the foresaid martyr, William Keagow in
Kilkeagow received his indictment, specifying the same
causes, viz., being at Bothwell under the command of Robert Hamilton, brother to the laird of Preston, issuing out treasonable proclamations and declarations, which he owned as his duty in defence of the Gospel and covenanted work of Reformation, and refusing to call the death of the Archbishop of St Andrews murder, and not being free to pay cess to the king, etc. But whether he left any testimony or not, it has not come to the hand of the publishers.
(Wodrow tells still less of William Keagow. He says, “ There were some persons put to death towards the close of this year, of whom I have not distinct accounts. However, any hints I have of them I give. William Keagow was executed upon the same points with the others above named, in December.”—ED.)
John Watt and John Semple.
F JOHN WATT little else is certainly known than that he
was of the parish of Kilbride, and the brief notice given of
him in the records of the Court of Justiciary. Wodrow mentions a John Watt in Kilbride, who, in the harvest of 1683 was heavily fined for nonconformity, but he does not say it was the same person, and the name is a common one in the parish.
John Semple was of Craigthorn, a farm about a mile to the north of the village of Westquarter, in the parish of Glassford, Lanarkshire. He was taken in November 1684. The council registers for November 13th charge him with being a contriver of the Societies' Declaration or affixing it to the church door. He refused to give an oath disowning the paper, and they ordained him to be tried by torture in the Thumbscrew, Boots, or both, until he be brought to a clear confession. The notice closes in words which show how little the
government of those times thought of the suffering they caused to others. In a dry matter-of-fact style it is recorded : “And the said John being called in, and interrogate in the Thumbscrew, and having refused to declare, and at length turned faint, he was remanded to prison till tomorrow at ten of the clock, at which time he is again to be tried by torture.” In the following letter he gives a touching account of the torture they subjected him to.
Next day, as they had ordered, he was tortured in the Boots. From the Boots he was taken to the Court of Justiciary for trial. John Watt and a Gabriel Thomson, of whom nothing is now known, were tried with him. They were charged with high treason, as art and part in the paper, the Societies' Declaration lately posted upon the church-doors. The evidence brought against them was, that John Semple would not disown the Declaration, that Gabriel Thomson and John Watt refused to answer
disown the paper.
All three were found guilty and sentenced to be taken to the Gallowlee that day, November 14th, 1684, and hanged “betwixt three and five of the clock in the afternoon.”
At the execution, says Wodrow, the soldiers were barbarous, and allowed the poor men scarce any time to pray. The people who looked on were surrounded by the soldiers, and had interrogatories and queries put to them, which, when they refused to answer upon oath, ten or twelve were made prisoners, and carried from the scaffold to the Tolbooth. Crookshanks adds, because three coffins were seen to be carried down the street to receive their bodies, the Council ordered Sir William Paterson to inquire by whom they were made.
Among these spectators was Janet Fimerton, a pious woman already mentioned in the notice of Walter Smith, p. 27. She had been in waiting to render the last services to the bodies of the three martyrs. Patrick Walker, in his “Life and Death of Mr Walter Smith," speaks of her in connection with the letter which Walter Smith wrote to her, and which he gives; and her name, as one who waited to dress the bodies of John Semple and his fellow-sufferers, leads him, in a highly characteristic passage, to tell of her, and of the last hours of John Semple and John Watt. One or two of its details, as is occasionally the case with Patrick Walker, are not quite accurate; he calls John Semple, Robert, gives him the adjoining parish of Stonehouse, instead of Glassford, and mistakes the hours between which Thomas Harkness, Andrew Clark, and Samuel M‘Ewen were sentenced and executed ; but, as a whole, it is vivid in a high degree, and burns with a hatred of wrong-doing, in striking contrast with the extract from the Council register respecting John Semple :
“ This Christian, Janet Fimerton, was not only my acquaintance but fellow-prisoner, both in Edinburgh, and Dunnottar Castle. She was about fifty years of age, never married. She spent much of her time in visiting prisoners and sufferers, doing good to them and for them, especially on the murdering bloody days of their deaths, going amongst friends, getting coffins and winding-sheets, and managing of their headless and handless bloody corpses, roany of them being hashed and hagged off.
“ Accordingly, Robert (John) Semple, my acquaintance, who was born and lived in that suffering family of Craigthorn, in the parish of Stonehouse (Glassford], in Clydesdale, whose father was killed at Pentland Hills; and, among many other pieces of great sufferings, his mother and sister, Jean, were prisoners in Dunnottar. He was taken in November 1684, the two slaughter years of killing time being begun in the fifteenth day of August before, when Thomas Harkness, within thirty years of age, Andrew Clark, nineteen years,
Samuel M'Ewen, seventeen, without any indictment, got sentence of death passed upon them at twelve o'clock, and executed at three [Wodrow—sentenced at one, and executed at five], in the Grassmarket. But a more full account of them afterward, if the Lord will, being in the Canongate Ironhouse with them the three days that they were in Edinburgh. [This purpose Patrick Walker did not live to execute.)
“ The said Robert (John) Semple was brought to Hamilton. Duke William examined him, charging him with being a troubler of the country, to which he answered, that he could give no suitabler answer than what Elijah gave to Ahab, that he and his father's house had been the troublers of our Israel.
“The Duke thought upon this after. Possibly this answer brought him in mind of what active hand he had in that persecution, and what trouble his father-in-law bred in our Israel in the year 1648, for which he lost his head in England. He sent for the dean of that place, and inquired at him where he would find that place of Scripture. The baptized brute could not tell him, at which he was offended, and said, 'What a base, naughty set of people are all of you, for all the encouragement you have! If I had inquired at the country fellow, his answer would have been ready.'
“ After this, Robert (John) Semple, with Gabriel Semple [perhaps a misprint of Patrick Walker's for Gabriel Thomson), aged eighteen years, who escaped out of the Canongate Ironhouse, upon the 19th day of August before, to which I was witness, and John Watt, were quickly sent to Edinburgh, and carried straight before the Council. After examination, about eleven of the clock, Robert (John) Semple was squeezed in the Thumbkins, to the frightful crushing of the bones of his thumbs. He lay in that tormenting torture above five hours, which length of time exceeded all of the many that they had tormented in these hellish engines of Boots and Thumbkins. After four o'clock they convened, and passed doom upon all the three, without any indictment. Then they sent them down to the Gallowlee, when it was dark, and suddenly executed them.
“After the bloody rope was about John Watt's neck, having no more need of the Bible, he threw it down, saying, 'Give that to my brother. A woman, yet alive, my near neighbour, kept it in her hands. One of the town-officers threw it from her, and gave it to cursed Peter Graham, captain of the Town-guard, that son of Belial. He cried, “Where is the woman that owns this Bible?' Janet Fimerton said, 'I own it, to give it to his brother. Graham said, “Secure her.' “At the same time he enclosed many people, and all, who would not swear that these men justly deserved to die, were made prisoners —which many women refused. He marched quickly with these to the Town Tolbooth, and left the hangman to cut them i.e., John Semple and his companions] down, and the Town officers to be his guard. When cut down, he was going to strip them of their clothes [but], the Collegioners (i.e., the students at the College] sent him and the Town-officers off in great haste. About twelve friendly women, waiting on to see the end, gathered about them, who had coffins and linen to order their corpses ; but, being very dark, they laid them in their coffins with their clothes, and rolled their plaids for handspakes ; came up Leith Wynd, and down St Mary's Wynd, and up the Cowgate to the Greyfriars' gate (about a mile). The Town-guard got orders to take the corpses from them. The noise rose ; they let the corpses fall, and fled for their lives. The Townguard kept guard upon them all night, and the next morning trailed them down on sleds and buried them at the gallows' foot.
“ The said Janet, and most of these women, were taken that night, and kept in prison until the 18th day of May, 1685, when they, with many others, both men and women, were gathered from several prisons through the land, and sent to Dunnottar Castle, sixty-eight miles from Edinburgh, where they lay in great distress, until the 18th day of August next; then brought back to Leith, and sentence of banishment passed upon a hundred of them to New Jersey (whereof twenty-four were women), without any libel, whereof the said Janet
“As soon as they went a shipboard, she said 'Farewell, bloody, sinful Scotland, I will never come back to thee again; the seabillows will be my winding sheet. The purchased and promised blessings of the Lord and mine be multiplied upon the poor suffering remnant, the excellent ones in whom I have had all my delight and pleasures on earth. Which came to pass, that she and many others died by the way. Pitlochie, a professing laird in Fife, got a gift of them from the bloody Council, to carry them there to be his slaves; but, behold, he and his whole family, except his eldest daughter, died by the way.”
The letter of John Semple is not in the original edition. It appeared first in the fourth edition. The letter is addressed to his mother and sister then in prison. According to the above extract from Patrick Walker, this prison was Dunnottar.-Ed.]