KENMURE HURRIES ON TOWARDS DUMFRIES-INCENDIARY ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY THE TOWN-FORTIFICATIONS ARE CONSTRUCTED, TRENCHES DUG, AND THE WORKS MANNED-THE CRISIS OF THE 31ST OF OCTOBER AND 1ST OF NOVEMBER-A. FALSE ALARM-THE REBELS RETIRE WITHOUT STRIKING A BLOW-IMPORTANCE OF DUMFRIES IN A MILITARY ASPECT-THE INABILITY OF THE JACOBITES TO CAPTURE IT CONDUCES TO THE FAILURE OF THE INSURRECTION- THEIR DEFEAT AT PRESTON-TRIAL AND CONDEMNATION OF KENMURE, NITHSDALE, AND OTHER CHIEFS-THE COUNTESS OF NITHSDALE RESOLVES TO DELIVER HER HUSBAND FROM THE TOWER-SKETCH OF THE COUNTESS FROM THE PORTRAIT AT TERREGLES-SHE SUCCEEDS IN HER SCHEME, AND THE EARL IS RESCUED FROM IMPRISONMENT AND DEATHSIR JOHN JOHNSTONE KEPT LOYAL AGAINST HIS WILL BY THE MAGISTRATES OF DUMFRIES AND HE AFTERWARDS, OUT OF GRATITUDE, PRESENTS THE BURGH WITH PORTRAITS OF KING WILLIAM AND QUEEN MARY.
LORD KENMURE, finding himself at the head of a considerable army, resolved on making some decisive movement. His thoughts again turned towards Dumfries; his idea being that he was now in a condition to attack it with success. The inhabitants, anticipating a second and more serious visit from his lordship, renewed their defensive preparations, which had been partially put a stop to. The Marquis of Annandale, having granted commissions to the officers of militia, and made arrangements for cutting out the force if necessary, left Dumfries for Edinburgh on the 20th of October; and no immediate danger being apprehended, the country people returned home, leaving the town to the care of its own inhabitants. When, however, news of the ominous rebel conjunction at Kelso reached the magistrates, they despatched expresses to their friends throughout Nithsdale and Galloway; and in a short time, in answer to their urgent requests, two thousand well-armed men volunteered their services for the protection of the Burgh. A few of the inhabitants favoured the Jacobites; one of whom went bustling about, assuring the country folks that Kenmore would be down upon them with irresistible force; that the town would have to give in; and that they would all be massacred wholesale. The tongue of this tattling busy-body might have occasioned mischief; had he not been promptly consigned to durance vile. Next morning (the 28th) the Town Council met; and, in order to dissipate the impression made by such treasonable gossip, they issued a proclamation, setting forth:- “That whereas some person or persons, disaffected to his Majesty’s person and Government, have raised and spread a false and groundless report that the town would surrender, we do therefore certify all concerned, that we have no such design, but that we are firmly resolved to make a vigorous resistance if attacked by the rebels; and we hope none will credit the malicious stories to the contrair that have been contrived by the enemy.” [Rae’s History, p. 227.]
It was not traitorous tale-bearers merely that the authorities had to deal with: there were Achans in the camp of a more dangerous kind-plotting incendiaries, who repeatedly endeavoured to fire portions of the town. One notable attempt of this nature was made on the night of the 26th. A train of gunpowder, nine yards long, was laid at the foot of a close of thatched houses near the centre of the Burgh, which, on being ignited, set one of the tenements in a blaze. Fortunately two of the magistrates were near at hand, by whose assistance the fire was extinguished before much damage or alarm was occasioned. A reward of a hundred merks was offered for the discovery of the guilty parties; and the authorities, fearing that on the approach of the rebels their friends inside would perpetrate similar acts of incendiarism in order to withdraw the loyal inhabitants from their posts, and otherwise create confusion, adopted all possible precautions to prevent or mitigate the threatened evil. The militia of the County was not yet raised – why, it is difficult to say; so that Dumfries had to depend for its defence on volunteer soldiers alone.
These, as has been mentioned, were forthcoming to a large extent. In the last week of October, the Burgh wappenschaw could boast, we should say, of fully three thousand men; one half of whom were well trained and armed, the other half raw recruits, including five score of such inhabitants as had little skill in fire-arms, who were furnished with scythes, and set to do duty at the barricades and in the trenches. The magistrates, with prudent forethought, resolved that Mr. Currie, one of their number, should be sent on a mission to General Carpenter, who had arrived at Jedburgh in search of the Jacobites under Kenmure. On learning the condition of affairs at Dumfries, the General assured Bailie Currie that if the town were attacked, and held out for six hours against the rebels, he would at the close of that time be ready to fall upon them in the rear. Fully aware of the importance of retaining Dumfries, the Duke of Argyle sent Major Campbell, Captain William Graham, Lieutenant Francis Scott, Lieutenant Anthony Smith, Lieutenant David Reid, Lieutenant John Kay, and Ensign Robert M`Arthur, all half-pay officers, to superintend its defence.
On the 24th, soon after their arrival, the work of thoroughly fortifying the town was proceeded with. In earlier times, as we have seen, it was surrounded, except where the Nith formed a natural defence, by walls, ditches, and earthen banks. Pursuing a somewhat similar plan, the loyal inhabitants, under skilful military direction, soon rendered the fortifications tolerably complete-quite able to resist the enemy’s assaults for ten times the six hours that General Carpenter had bargained for. All the gates and avenues were built up with stone, except the bridge and Lochmaben-gate. A line of wall was raised from the river to the churchyard, and thence through the adjoining meadow to the high road beyond Lochmaben-gate; it then ran towards the east, curved towards the north-west, then to the south-east corner of Sir Christopher’s Chapel: the whole constituting a covered way in the form of a half-moon. From the south-west corner of the chapel another line was drawn nearly parallel to the former, for the safety and convenience of the defenders in the event of the rebels forming on the fields betwixt that locality and the Loreburn, which streamlet was also intrenched; and the meadow beyond it was protected by a deep ditch, dug behind a thick thorn hedge, that separated it from the highway leading to the Townhead. Here also the gate was walled up, and a trench of bastion shape gave protection to the Moat on the other side. It took fully a week to complete these works: for though hundreds of hands were employed, suitable materials were not easily obtained; and in the pressing emergency, the stones of the east gable of the sacred edifice erected by Christian Bruce in memory of her patriotic husband, were appropriated by the workmen. Little did the royal lady think, when she erected the chapel, or Robert Bruce when he endowed it, that its walls would be thrown down for the purpose of resisting the march of one of their descendants to his ancestral throne. What piety and widowed love fondly built up, patriotism unreluctantly cast down. But curious cross-purposes such as this are frequently met with by the historian.
The 30th and 31st of October formed the crisis of this extraordinary passage in the annals of Dumfries. As the first of these days was Sabbath, those who laboured at the defences expected to enjoy a short season of rest. At half-past nine o’clock in the morning, however, a proclamation was made by tuck of drum, that they were all to repair to the works as usual; the Provost and deputy-lieutenants having received an express announcing that the enemy had arrived at Hawick, on their route by Langholm to Dumfries. Accordingly, the din of preparation was redoubled on the sacred day: trenches were extended or deepened; several trees growing in the churchyard were cut down-the ringing sounds made by the axe-men rising simultaneously with the song of the worshippers-and stakes formed of them with which to dam up the Mill-burn, so as to cause the waters of that brook to fill the trenches, and prevent the mounted rebels crossing the meadows. It was on the 30th, too, that the remains of the ancient chapel, consisting chiefly of a fine arch and back wall, were put to use. With the stones of the arch a redoubt was built to cover the entry of the highway near at hand; and the wall was lowered to serve as a rest for firelocks.
Langholm was reached by the rebels that evening; and, long before sunrise next morning, a detachment of them numbering about four hundred horse, commanded by the Earl of Carnwath, arrived at Ecclefechan, with orders to blockade Dumfries till the main body arrived to attack the town. Carnwath and his men rested in their saddles at Ecclefechan, for further instructions; which having been brought by Mr. Burnet of Carlops, they took quarters for a brief space in the village, and then remounted, with the design of being at Dumfries by break of day.
On the lieges there learning from a special messenger that the rebels were within eight miles of them, the preconcerted alarm was given by beating of drums and ringing of bells; a muster of all the able-bodied men was made at the Moat; after which they were marshalled into companies, and took their posts at the trenches. “Marching thither,” says Rae, “with an undaunted courage,” the ministers going with them, prepared to fight as well as their people, and surgeons attending in case of need. [History, p. 275.] From the 13th of October (with the exception of a short period, when it was erroneously supposed that the Jacobites had abandoned their intention to attack the town), meetings for prayer and exhortation were held daily in the church, and the windows looking into the principal streets were lighted all night. What a season of excitement it must have been’ and the night of the 31st, when it reached a climax, must have proved the most painfully anxious one experienced by that generation of Dumfriesians, and been referred to by them ever afterwards with mixed emotions of terror, thankfulness, and pride.
A Town Council minute of an after date, in noticing the recompense given to “the countrymen come in for defence of this place, and that particularly on the 31st of October last and 1st of November instant, when the rebels were within a little space of this Burgh, in order to the attack thereof,” states that “people were obliged to be fourty-eight hours in the trenches made round this town, during which time they could not be removed from duty for refreshing themselves, and therefore the magistrates caused give them bread and provisions for refreshing them in the fields.” It was felt that if the least relaxation were made the enemy might take ruinous advantage of it, and therefore the watch was unremitting. With the clouds of night carne pelting showers of rain, and the air waxed piercingly cold; but every man continued at his allotted post in the trenches, at the barricades, or with a chosen body of reserve in High Street, two hundred in number, with three pieces of cannon, whose orders were to reinforce those defenders against whom the main assault of the enemy should be delivered.
They had friends outside, too, ready on certain conditions to give them a helping hand, if necessary. These consisted of about three hundred and twenty Presbyterian Dissenters, under their minister, Mr. John Hepburn of Urr; who, having some military knowledge, trained them for the express purpose of coping with the rebels. [The Rev. John Hepburn, a native of Forfarshire, began his ministerial labours in Urr about the year 1680. He was a devoted Gameronian; and his opinions as such made him a resolute opponent of the Jacobites. He employed his soldierly skill in drilling his parishioners on Halmyre hill, near his church, that they might be the more able to resist the Pretender. The late Dr. Mundell, rector of Wallace Hall Academy, who was great-grandson to Mr. Hepburn, had in his possession the claymore and drum that were used by his martial ancestor.] On the 31st they were in the parish of Kirkmahoe, three miles distant from Dumfries; and Bailie Gilchrist, with the Laird of Bargaly, were sent to solicit their assistance. They forthwith marched towards the town, but, owing to religious scruples, they declined to enter it; and, crossing the river, took up a position on Corbelly hill, at the west end of the bridge, to watch the current of events from that commanding eminence. There they were visited by the Provost and other gentlemen, who offered them any post they might choose within the town; upon which they presented an unsigned paper to the deputation, asserting “that they had no freedom in their consciences to fight in defence of the constitution of Church and State, as established since the sinful Union.” They mentioned the conditions on which they would enter the town to join in its defence: but as many of these were of a political and general nature, such as the King or Parliament only could grant, no arrangement was effected; and the party continued on Corbelly hill, where they were supplied with necessaries by the inhabitants, whom they would no doubt have helped had their services been required.
The night of the 31st, with its pitiless showers and inclement winds – ill to bear by the wearied watchers, but of no moment compared to the racking thoughts that troubled them-passed slowly on. “Would that it were day, even though the enemy should appear alongst with it!” was, we may suppose, the anxious wish of many, as the leaden hours crept lazily along. At brief intervals the officers visited their men, to see that they were prepared for the expected emergency; and about four o’clock in the morning the news went round that the attack might be looked for at seven, and the men were told to mind their arms and to keep their powder dry-precautions all the more requisite as it still rained heavily. At five o’clock an express arrived from the hamlet of Roucan, affirming that the rebels had passed the old castle of Torthorwald, and were within three miles of the town. This was found out to be erroneous, friendly scouts having been mistaken for the enemy, but not till the false alarm had caused a great flutter of excitement. Seven o’clock arrived, and still the enemy remained unseen – eight o’clock-nine! – without bringing a single rebel in view. Was it possible that the bold Jacobites, after all their threats and boastings, had resolved to leave Dumfries unharmed in its loyalty; without so much as striking a blow for a town, the possession of which they at one time deemed essential to their success in the south of Scotland?
It was even so. Good news to this effect reached its defenders by ten o’clock. The intelligence was rapidly circulated that the rebels, afraid to attack a place so well defended, were preparing for a retrograde march; and the inhabitants, so long stretched upon the rack, began to feel at ease, and breathe freely. Soon after Carnwath’s party left Ecclefechan, on their way to Dumfries, an express from their friends in the Burgh informed them of its condition-bristling with arms, strongly fortified, bravely defiant-and beseeching them “not to try their teeth on so obdurate a morsel.” This discouraging letter was forwarded to the main body of the army, then lying about two miles west from Langholm, and formed the subject of a keen debate.
A proposal, made by Lord Kenmure, to continue moving on Dumfries, though favoured by the Lowland horse and foot, was resolutely opposed by the English gentlemen, who desired to carry on the war in their own country. Kenmure, reluctantly giving way to the opinion of the latter, ordered a march into England. About five hundred Highlanders, who did not relish the idea of crossing the Border, set out for the North, proceeding through the moors by Lockerbie – near which town ten were taken by the country people, and sent prisoners to Dumfries; some were seized at Sauquhar; a great many about the head of Clydesdale : scarcely a tithe of the poor Celts reaching their own mountain land in safety. All dread of a rebel attack being now over at Dumfries, the country friends who had helped to stave it off withdrew, promising to return within twenty-four hours, if called upon.
Ere another month had passed away, the rebel cause was crushed in England, and beginning to wear a forlorn aspect in the Highlands. It would, in all human probability, have fared much better if its adherents had succeeded in becoming masters of Dumfries. Kenmure’s plan of operations at Kelso, after the Scottish and English forces united and revived at Langholm, was to move westward along the Border, occupying first Dumfries, next Ayr, and eventually Glasgow. He proposed then to open the passes, held chiefly by militia and volunteers, in order to allow the Argyleshire clans, under General Gordon, to rally round the Princes standard. This movement effected, it was reasonably supposed that the Duke of Argyle, when he found himself confronted by a superior army under the Earl of Mar, and with the forces of Kenmure, Forster, and Macintosh upon his left flank and in his rear, would be compelled to evacuate his strong post at Stirling; and in that case King George would have had but a frail tenure left of his northern dominions. Once possessed of Dumfries, the Jacobites would readily have obtained reinforcements and supplies by sea from France and Ireland; the gentlemen of the district who sympathized with them would have been encouraged to join their ranks; and the first great step of a promising campaign would have been taken. But the unexpected opposition given by the Burgh altered the whole character of the rebel movement; and by enforcing the separation of its promoters, contributed materially to its failure.
When the Pretender’s forces entered England, Forster, in virtue of a commission from the Earl of Mar, assumed the chief command; Kenmure, however, still continuing to act as leader of the Scottish soldiers, who by the desertion of the Highlanders were reduced to about a thousand in number. The Earl of Nithsdale, who had joined the movement personally at Langholm, was amongst them; also William Grierson of Lag, Gilbert Grierson, his brother, John Maxwell of Steilston, Edmund Maxwell of Carnsalloch, Robert Maclellan of Barscobe, William Maxwell of Munches, George Maxwell, his brother, Charles Maxwell of Cowhill, Andrew Cassie of Kirkhouse, Basil Hamilton of Baldoon, lieutenant of Kenmure’s troop of horse, and other gentlemen of the district. It was on the 1st of November that the rebels turned their backs to Dumfries. On the 12th of that month we find them, after gathering considerable strength in the town of Preston, preparing to resist a large Royalist army under General Wilks. On the 14th, they are seen, after making an unavailing defence, in the attitude of hopeless captives – “the white rose of loyalty” vanished from their grasp, leaving nothing to them but its rankling thorns.
The prisoners, nearly fifteen hundred in number, were cruelly treated: six were shot, according to martial law, as holding commissions under the Government against which they had borne arms ; and many were banishid to the plantations in America. Those of most note were sent up to London, and after being led through some of its streets in triumph, were consigned to prison. Crushed in the north of England, the Rebellion was at the same time, as we have said, faring badly in the ancient kingdom, on which the Chevalier chiefly relied. Mar half gained a victory at Sheriffmuir ; but, under the peculiar circumstances of his position, his partial triumph was tantamount to a defeat. If in any way an early junction could have been effected between his army and the one led by Kenmure and Forster, the insurgent movement would have become more hopeful; and when the latter force withdrew to England, Mar ought to have boldly crossed the Forth, seized Edinburgh, which could have offered little opposition, and have swept into the South. Instead of adopting, or trying to adopt, such an energetic line of policy, he allowed the Royalists time to muster powerfully in his front, was forced to fight a testing battle, which resulted in his retreat to Perth, and lost a chance of success that never again presented itself. On the 22nd of December, nine days after the disastrous no-victory at Sheriffmuir, and eight after the inglorious and woeful surrender of Preston, the Prince arrived at Peterhead, all too late to revive the bloom of his blighted fortunes. The Northern army melted gradually away, “without even the eclat of a defeat;” and in the following February the unfortunate Pretender and his faithful Lieutenant-General, the Earl of Mar, were forlorn fugitives in France.
Trial and condemnation followed rapidly to the leaders of the collapsed Rebellion. On the 9th of February, Lords Derwentwater, Kenmure, Nithsdale, Wintoun, Carnwath, Nairn, and Widdrington were brought to the bar of the House of Commons, and, having pleaded guilty to the articles of impeachment previously served upon them, were adjudged to death. The four first-named peers were ordered for execution, in spite of great intercessions made on their behalf; the other three were eventually pardoned.
When Winifred, Countess of Nithsdale, first heard of her good lord’s capture at Preston, his imprisonment in the Tower, and -sad climax of all’-his dread death-sentence, she was overcome with sorrow.
“Our ladie did nocht noo but wipe aye her een:
Her heart’s like to loup the gowd lace o’ her goun,
But she’s husked on her gay cleeding, an’s aff for Lonnon toun” – [Allan Cunningham’s Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song.]
resolved to risk everything in an attempt to cheat the gibbet of its victim. With true wifely devotedness – all the less wonderful when we think of the lovable nature of her husband -she travelled night and day, amidst tempestuous weather, that she might solace him in his dark hour of need, appeal to the clemency of the King in his behalf, or in some other way not yet apparent obtain a reversal of his sentence. His Majesty rudely repulsed the noble suppliant, rejected her petition, and she relapsed into despair; which, however, soon gave way to a hopeful resolution to win by love and wile what harsh royalty had denied.
The Countess was fifth and youngest daughter of William, Marquis of Powis, and must at this time have been in the bloom of early womanhood. Her picture is also at Terregles House, forming one of its chief art-treasures: it bespeaks a heroine from whom we might expect such a daring and ingenious enterprise as that upon which she entered with full heart and mind. Rarely do we meet with a finer face: it is full of intellectual beauty. There is great force of character and intellectual strength, softened by womanly sweetness – no amazonian roughness being noticeable in any of the lineaments. The brow is broad and high; the face oval, with a rare blending of the Roman with the Grecian features; and the general expression is extremely captivating. When the vision of such a radiant countenance as this lighted up the room where her imprisoned husband lay, he might well believe that a bright celestial apparition had come to cheer him in his passage through the valley of death; and what must have been his rapture when he saw that it was the wife of his bosom come to give him hope, liberty, life itself !
His sentence was fixed to take place on the 24th of February; and two days before, the Countess, whose plans were nearly matured, visited her husband, as she had previously been allowed to do on several occasions. Affecting an air of cheerfulness, she assured the guards that she was the bearer of joyful news for the prisoners: their petition praying the House of Lords to intercede for them had been passed, she said, and their early liberation might be looked for. By such representations, and a pretty liberal distribution of money, the guards were led to relax their vigilance, and inadvertently to favour her designs. Having prepared Lord Nithsdale for their being carried into effect, she took her leave, returning on the eve of the following day, when he must be delivered from the dungeon and the scaffold, if at all. Her faithful attendant Evans, an acquaintance of the latter, named Mrs. Morgan, and her own landlady, Mrs. Mills, were her accomplices in the projected stratagem. On the arrival of the fair conspirators at the Tower, the Countess, who was only allowed one companion at a time, introduced Mrs. Morgan in the first instance; and she having purposely left a superfluous riding hood in the prison, was sent out to request the attendance of another servant, Mrs. Mills. The latter, a stout, portly woman, appeared accordingly, holding a handkerchief to her face, as if overcome with grief. To her was assigned the difficult duty of personating the imprisoned Earl: but though sufficiently masculine for the purpose, her eyebrows and hair were ruddy, Lord Nithsdale’s dark. His lady-rich in forethought and resources-by means of paint, chalk, artificial head gear, the clothes left by Mrs. Morgan, and other articles of her own, so disguised the captive that, when viewed superficially, he seemed the veritable Mrs. Mills, though that lady had already, in her ordinary attire, slipped out unchallenged. Accompanied by his Countess, he safely passed the sentinels, whose suspicions had been lulled asleep by her plausible statements and liberality.
“When” – to quote from her own account, drawn up many years afterwards in a letter to her husband’s sister – “When I had almost finished dressing my lord in all my petticoats excepting one, I perceived that it was growing dark, and was afraid that the light of the candles might betray us; so I resolved to set off. I went out leading him by the hand; and he held his handkerchief to his eyes. I spoke to him in the most piteous and afflicted tone of voice, bewailing bitterly the negligence of Evans, who had ruined me by her delay. `Then,’ said I, `my dear Mrs. Betty, for the love of God run quickly and bring her with you ! You know my lodging ; and if ever you made despatch in your life, do it at present : I am almost distracted with this disappointment” The guards opened the doors, and I went down stairs with him, still conjuring him to make all possible despatch. As soon as he had cleared the door, I made him walk before me, for fear the sentinel should take notice of his walk; but I still continued to press him to make all the despatch he possibly could. At the bottom of the stairs I met my dear Evans [who had only been blamed for delay as a pretence for hastening the disguised lord’s departure], into whose hands I confided him. I had before engaged Mr. Mills to be in readiness before the Tower, to conduct him to some place of safety in case we succeeded. He looked upon the affair as so very improbable to succeed, that his astonishment, when he saw us, threw him into such consternation that he was almost out of himself; which Evans perceiving, with the greatest presence of mind, without telling him any thing, lest he should mistrust them, conducted him to some of her own friends on whom she could rely, and so secured him, without which we should have been undone.”
So far, matters had progressed in a manner that seemed almost miraculous; but the heroine of the escape had still some delicate work on hand, to prevent detection and pursuit. She had pretended to send Mrs. Mills on a pressing message for another attendant, and had therefore to return to the cell on the further pretence of waiting her arrival. When there, she says, “I talked to him as if he had been really present, and answered my own questions in my lord’s voice as nearly as I could imitate it. I walked up and down as if we were conversing together, till I thought they had time enough thoroughly to clear themselves of the guards. I then thought proper to make off also. I opened the door, and stood half in it, that those in the outer chamber might hear what I said, but held it so close that they could not look in. I bade my lord a formal farewell for that night; and added, that something more than usual must have happened to make Evans negligent on this important occasion, who had always been so punctual in the smallest trifles; that I saw no other remedy than to go in person; that if the Tower were still open when I finished my business, I would return that night; but that he might be assured I would be with him as early in the morning as I could gain admittance into the Tower; and I flattered myself I should bring favourable news. Then, before I shut the door, I pulled through the string of the latch, so that it could only be opened on the inside. I then shut it with some degree of force, that I might be sure of its being well shut. I said to the servant, as I passed by-who was ignorant of the whole transaction-that he need not carry in candles to his master till my lord sent for him, as he desired to finish some prayers first. I went down stairs and called a coach, as there were several on the stand. I drove home to my lodgings, where poor Mr. Mackenzie had been waiting to carry the petition, in case my attempt had failed. I told him there was no need of any petition, as my lord was safe out of the Tower, and out of the hands of his enemies.” After lying in concealment for several days, Lord Nithsdale, disguised as a livery servant to the Venetian ambassador, proceeded in that gentleman’s coach and six to Dover-where it was going on other business-and then took ship for Calais. Lady Winifred, after the lapse of several weeks, succeeded in getting an interview with King George, when she presented a petition, praying that the forfeited Nithsdale peerage and estates might be conferred upon her son; but his Majesty, resenting her conduct, not only disregarded her petition, but treated her with rudeness. She had the gratification of knowing, however, that her husband was beyond the King’s reach. Lord Nithsdale lived twenty-nine years after the date of his extraordinary deliverance, and died at Rome in 1744, on the very eve of another great rebellion in favour of the House of Stuart. Lord Derwentwater and Viscount Kenmure were beheaded on the 24th of February; both of them continuing firm Jacobites to the last.
The estates of the convicted insurgents were forfeited to the Crown; and though the property belonged to nearly forty individuals, its annual revenue was comparatively small-only £30,000. A Government surveyor, appointed for the purpose, estimated the rental of the Earl of Nithsdale, from depositions made by the tenants, at £803 2s. 8d., of which fully £749 was payable in money; the rest in goods, including such items as forty-four bolls of barley, at 10s. 5d. per boll; about the same quantity of oatmeal, at the same price; three hundred and forty-seven hens, at 5d. each; and 13s. 6d. for peats, at 1d. per dozen loads. The forfeited estates were purchased from the Crown by a London company; but as this speculative investment was badly managed, they were afterwards exposed for sale, and for the most part bought at moderate rates for the late proprietors by their friends. The Nithsdale peerage was never restored, though the estates continue to be possessed by the Maxwell family. Lady Kenmure survived her chivalrous and unfortunate husband sixty-one years, and so managed the property that when her son Robert reached majority it was delivered to him free of debt. She died at Terregles House in 1776; and in 1824 the attainted title was given back to her grandson, John, the sixth Viscount of Kenmure.
We complete our account of the Rebellion by a local episode that ought not to be overlooked. Whilst the Marquis of Annandale was busy superintending the defences of Dumfries, his brother, Lord John Johnstone, who had served James the Seventh in Ireland, was doing his best to promote the pretensions of that monarch’s son. His design was to assist in the meditated attack upon the town at the head of some of his brother’s retainers; but before he could marshall them, he was seized at the instance of the magistrates, and kept in the Tolbooth till the whole affair was over. According to a tradition in his lordship’s family, the authorities honoured his exit from prison with a procession, and expressed a hope, in parting with him, that they had not acted improperly.
What the liberated Jacobite said in reply is not recorded; but when, fifteen years afterwards, a deputation from the magistrates waited upon him at his house, to compliment him on his birth-day, he presented the town with two valuable pictures, accompanied by the following note, addressed to the Provost:-” Sir,-The great civilities the good town of Drumfries has been pleased to show my brother and his family, makes me earnestly wish for an opportunity to show them my sense of the obligation this lays upon both of us. King William and Queen Mary is so well, that I have chosen to send their pictures as a present to the Corporation; and I hope, as I value those great deliverers, on public as well as private considerations, they will receive them as a pledge of my disposition to do all the good in my power to this County and Burgh; and beg you would take the trouble to make these, and my compliments, acceptable to the Corporation, which tie me to be still more, sir, your most humble servant, – JOHN JOHNSTONE. Dumfries, 30th August, 1730.”
Though a slight vein of irony is visible in this letter, the writer of it had reason to be truly thankful to the magistrates for keeping him out of an embroilment by which he might have lost his head; and the beautiful portraits presented by him remain in the Town Hall-the mementoes of his gratitude, and the best pictorial treasures possessed by the Burgh.