Margaret Wilson - and Agnes and ThomasMargaret Wilson was the eldest of three children and their father, Gilbert, was a tenant farmer at
Glenvernock in the parish of Penninghame to the north of Newton Stewart. She was 18 years old;
her brother Thomas was 16 and her sister Agnes only 13. The family was fairly prosperous -
until the children threw in their lot with the Covenanters. They certainly had genuine religious
convictions and it was not a passing fancy for excitement that drove them on.
Mr. & Mrs. Wilson were quite content to conform to the Episcopalian pattern of services
in their parish church - not so their offspring. And the parents were continually harried because
of their children's beliefs. Large fines were imposed for the slightest misdemeanour and Gilbert
was forced to travel long distances just to pay them.
There are recorded instances of as many as 100 dragoons turning up at the farm and demanding
that food and shelter to be provided immediately.
Some accounts say that the young folk left home of their own accord - others that the parents
were forced to bar their home to them. At any rate the three ended up living in the hills
with other Covenanters all through the winter of 1684/85. January and February were bitterly cold
and some would have it that young Agnes's health was suffering. Although Thomas stayed, the
two sisters left to travel to friends near Wigtown - it may even have been to Margaret MacLachlan
they were going being unaware of her arrest - to give Agnes some respite.
In Wigtown they saw Bailie Patrick Stewart, a friend of their father's, and he invited them to his
home. His offer was gratefully accepted but the girls did not know that Stewart was strongly
against the Covenanters and all they stood for. He deliberately toasted the king at the meal and,
when the girls remained silent, he denounced them and they were imprisoned in the same cell as
On 13th April 1685, all the women were in court and on the bench sat five of the most vicious men
of the day - Grierson of Lagg, Sheriff David Graham, Major Winram (or Windram),
Captain Strachan and Provost Coltrane. The list of charges included "being present at the
Battle of Bothwell Bridge and Ayrsmore, 20 field Conventicles, and 20 house Conventicles".
(They may certainly have attended the meetings although the number seems high, but the presence
of any of them at the battles seems unlikely especially as Agnes would have been 7 years old at the
Battle of Bothwell Bridge!)
No evidence was required to be led by the prosecution and the prisoners were pronounced guilty
with all but Margaret Maxwell being sentenced
the flood mark of the sea, and there to stand until the flood overflowed them and drowned them".
journeyed to Edinburgh (over 100 miles away) and gained the reprieve of his younger daughter,
Agnes, on payment of £100 - a huge sum in those days - and she was released.
There was a crowd of several hundred on the shore near the mouth of the Bladnoch Burn that day
to stand witness to Margaret's death on a lovely May morning. The stake to which she was tied
was close enough for people to speak to her - and many tried to persuade her to swear
the Abjuration Oath - to just "say the words". But Margaret remained firm and it was remarked
on how cheerful her voice sounded.
I cannot begin to imagine what her thoughts were as she watched old Margaret drown but she
began to sing Psalm 25 and afterwards to repeat the wonderful verses from Romans 8: 35-39.
When she began to pray and the water had reached her mouth it was an added cruelty to have
a soldier pull her out and for her to be asked if she would pray for the king.
Her reply "God save him, if He will, for it is his salvation I desire" was not enough and only
infuriated Grierson and Windram the more.
They cursed her and demanded again that she swear the Oath.
"I will not," she replied, without hesitation," I am a Child of God, let me go."
The persecution of her parents continued after Margaret's death and the imposition of fines
and the weekly journeys to pay them eventually ruined her father and he lost the farm and died
in utter poverty. Her mother had to be cared for by friends.
Thomas joined the army of William of Orange but when he at last came home,
there was nothing left for him.
Margaret, too, has a stone and the words on it read:
Gilbert Wilson in Glenvernock. Who was
Drowned Year 1685 - Age 18.
Let Earth and stone still witness bear
There lies a virgin martyr here
Murdered for owning Christ supreme
Head of His Church and no more crime
But not abjuring presbytery
And her not owning prelacy.
They her condemned, by unjust law
Of Heaven nor Hell they stood no awe
Within the sea, tied to a stake
She suffered for Christ Jesus sake.
The actors of this cruel crime were,
Lagg, Strachan, Winram and Graham.
Neither young years, nor yet old age
Could stop the fury of their rage."
Copyright © Elizabeth Tolson 1st November 1999
"Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth, not my transgressions; according to thy mercy
remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O Lord.
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his way.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies."
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long;
we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Three Women Called Margaret
Background | Covenanters | Conclusion
Margaret MacLachlan | Margaret Wilson | Margaret Maxwell
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