William Lawrie's Gravestone
NGR - NS 799507
Laurie’s grave is located on the south side of the church A headstone commemorates later members of the Laurie family, listed on the western side, whereas the eastern side states that the stone was erected by James Laurie and his wife, Christian Nisbet, in memory of their ancestor, William Laurie, The inscription tells us that:
Robert Laurie’s body lies here,
Who, witness for the truth did bear,
For Scotland’s Covenanted cause
Of Reformation and Scripture laws
Most zealously did contend,
Until his day’s came to an end,
A faithful Witness ’gainst all those
Whose practice precious Truth oppose
Christ’s word of patience he did keep,
While he did live: now he doth sleep
In Jesus Christ, who shall him raise,
To sing the glory of his praise.
William Laurie was a member of the landed gentry, being related to the proprietor of Blackwood estate, which lies to the west of Kirkmuirhill. In some accounts he is referred to as the ‘Tutor of Blackwood’, indicating that he ran the estate on behalf of a minor. When the Covenanters were making their way through the county during the Pentland Rising of 1666, he met with them at Lanark and requested that they lay down their arms. The Covenanters had initially thought that he was requesting to join them, but when it was discovered that this was not the case, Wallace seems to have dismissed him and gone to bed. Laurie claimed to have come at the request of the Duke of Hamilton, to find out what they were planning, although he had no letter of introduction to the same. It was noted that many of the Covenanters were unaware of his presence, and that the only person of any authority he conversed with was Rev Gabriel Semple. It is said that some of the Covenanter leaders felt that he should have been arrested, as he may have been spying on their size and direction.
Laurie appears to have followed the Covenanters on their journey towards Edinburgh, discussing the proposal to come in peace a further twice. At Colinton he again spoke with them, requesting, on behalf of Dalziel that they lay down their arms. Laurie stated that Hamilton would ensure that they received an indemnity if they did so. A letter was drawn up by the covenanter leaders, and Laurie agreed to carry this to the Privy Council in Edinburgh. When he arrived in the city and presented the letter to the authorities, he was seized up and placed in gaol. Laurie was to remain in prison for one year, before he was set free in July 1667, when he was allowed out of Edinburgh Castle and to have the liberty of the town, and of his affairs.
Laurie did not keep out of trouble thereafter, for we find that in 1680, when the Covenanters were about to take part in the battle of Bothwell Bridge, he was accused of letting them take the cannon from Douglas Castle to use in their defence. As a result, the authorities accused him of being a Covenanter.
In 1682 he was apprehended on a charge of ‘assisting and countenancing rebels’. Following a period in prison, he was sentenced in February 1683 to be taken to Edinburgh’s market cross, where he was ‘to have his head severed from his body—his name, memory, fame and honours to be extinct, and his lands forfeit to his Majesty for ever’. The sentence was approved by King Charles, who sent a letter stating such, but which reprieved him from the execution until the end of March, no doubt hoping that he would turn. When the date approached, a further reprieve was issued until the end of November. This, too, was passed and in January 1684 he still languished in gaol. The sentence and reprieves were a means by which the authorities hoped that other gentlemen of the west would fall into line with their demands, otherwise they would be subject to the same treatment.
With the coming of the Glorious Revolution, William Laurie was able to be set free. A special Act of Revolution was passed which made all of the sentences against Laurie null and void. He was able to return to Blackwood, where he lived out the rest of his life.