The Highland Host in Glasgow

(Taken from Anecdotage of Glasgow)


The Doings of the Highland Host in Glasgow, 1678

THE good Archbishop Leighton demitted office in 1674, and retired to England. Gilbert Burnet, the former archbishop, was thereupon restored, and proceeded to act with his former rigour against all Nonconformists. In July, 1674, the Privy Council passed a decree against Glasgow, fining the city in £100 sterling, for Andrew Morton and Donald Cargill having been allowed to hold a conventicle in it.

On the 30th November, 1676, James Dunlop of Househill, was fined 1000 merks (£55 11s. 1½d. sterling) for having failed as bailie-depute of the regality of Glasgow to suppress conventicles in Partick, Woodside, and other places, and he was declared incapable of holding office. So great was the exodus of Glasgow people to conventicles outside the city, that in this year Colonel Borthwick, commander of the garrison in Glasgow, was instructed to place a guard at each of the gates on Sabbath mornings to prevent attendance at the prohibited meetings.

The Highland chieftains had been called upon in December, 1677, to collect their forces at Stirling, in order to proceed from thence to suppress the numerous conventicles in the west of Scotland. About 5000 men were brought together, and this army is known in history as the Highland Host. A committee of the Privy Council was appointed to accompany this force, and obtain the signatures of all in authority, declaring that their families and tenants should not in any way recognise conventicles.

According to instructions, the Highland Host arrived in Glasgow on Sunday, 13th January, 1678, and while public worship was in progress a strict search was made for arms. Several persons were cast into prison. The soldiers took up their quarters upon the inhabitants, and they are alleged to have made their presence very disagreeable and their absence very desirable.

The committee of the Council met during the last days of January, and the bond was signed by James Campbell, the provost, all the magistrates and council, together with a number of citizens, making a total of 153. After sitting for ten days in Glasgow receiving signatures to the bond, during which time the Highland Host plundered most shamefully, the whole force moved towards Ayrshire, the great covenanting stronghold. There they robbed and destroyed until the end of April, when they were recalled.

While the Highlanders were returning home laden with spoil, and were about to pass through the city, the students of the College and the youths of the city blocked the bridge of Glasgow against nearly two thousand of them. They would not permit them to pass until they delivered up the spoil they carried with them. Only forty of them were allowed to pass at once, and they were escorted out at the west port, and not suffered to go through the town. The custom-house was nearly filled with pots, pans, bed-clothes, wearing clothes, rugg coats, gray cloaks, and such-like, taken from the military plunderers.

In terms of the bond, the magistrates of Glasgow gave orders for the suppression of the conventicles, but their commands seem to have been no more effectual than those of the Privy Council. On the 14th March, 1679, Sir William Fleming of Frame, Commissary of Glasgow, was fined 4000 merks (£222 4s. 5½d. sterling) on account of his lady having attended conventicles at Langside.