In Ulster, on the other hand, the Presbyterians had learnt to live with the prelacy as they had done before and because of this Charles II was so well disposed towards them that he granted to the Ulster ministers a Regium Donum or Royal Bounty. So, for the twelve years following 1670, there was nothing that could be described as persecution of ordinary people in the Province of Ulster itself. It was this difference between the two regions which resulted in an influx from Galloway of many of her impoverished citizens.
However, on the enactment of the Test Act in 1673, and the so-called Popish Plot of 1678, concocted in England by clergyman Titus Oates there was further anti-Roman Catholic action. Archbishop Peter Talbot of Dublin was arrested. Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland was unjustly accused of plotting a French invasion and conspiring to bring 20,000 French soldiers into the country, and for levying a tax on his clergy to support 70,000 men for rebellion. He was arrested in Dublin in December 1679 and imprisoned in Dublin Castle, where he gave absolution to the dying Talbot. Plunkett was eventually tried at Westminster Hall and wrongly convicted. The Scottish clergyman and future Bishop of Salisbury, Gilbert Burnet, an eyewitness, had no doubt of his innocence and praised him as a wise and sober man who had no aim but to live peacefully and tend to his congregation. Archbishop Plunkett was found guilty of high treason on June 1681 “for promoting the Roman faith”, and was condemned to death. Despite numerous pleas for mercy he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 1 July 1681, aged 55, the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England.
On 13 August 1670 the Scottish Government had passed the notorious ‘Black Act’ which made field preaching an offence punishable by death. To this barbarous legislation the increasingly impoverished Hill Folk of Galloway uttered a defiance whose fire the Government attempted to extinguish in blood. In 1678 the arrival of the Highland Host under the Tory and Episcopalian James Graham of Claverhouse (“Bluidy Clavers” to Presbyterians, “Bonnie Dundee” to Jacobite Highlanders) marked the beginning of a grim final decade of persecution in Galloway. These Highlanders were “authorised to take free quarter, to seize all horses for carrying their sick men, ammunition and other provisions and are indemnified against all pursuits, civil and criminal. for anything they do whether killing, wounding, apprehending, or imprisoning such as shall make opposition to authority.”
When the Highlanders returned to their homes at seedtime, as was the custom of such Gaelic raiding parties, their place was taken by English dragoons under their own officers, who gave orders to shoot on sight. On Sunday 1 June 1679 Claverhouse and his troops attacked a field meeting or conventicle at Drumclog, but was defeated by the Covenanters. On 22 June, however, a badly-led army of Covenanters were defeated at Bothwell Bridge. Following this a merciless persecution of Galloway was initiated. A Test Act was passed in August 1681 which obliged them to accept the complete authority of the King in all matters civil and ecclesiastical and to renounce Presbyterianism. Courts were set up to enforce this, and the innocent, suspected and guilty alike were subjected to extreme torture and then either imprisoned on the Bass Rock, or in Blackness Castle. Many others were transported to the colonies to be sold as slaves.
Of these events Claverhouse wrote: “In the meantyme we quartered on the rebelles, and endevoured to destroy them by eating up their provisions, but they quickly preceived the dessein, and soued their corns on untilled ground. After which we fell in search of the rebelles, played them hotly with pairtys, so that there were severall taken, many fleid the country and all were dung from their hants; and rifled so their houses, ruined their goods, and impoverished their servants, that their wyfes and childring were broght to sterving; which forced them to have recourd to the safe conduct, and mid them glaid to renounce their principles.”
In October 1684 James Renwick assumed the leadership of the Covenanters and published his ‘Apologetical Declaration’ against the king and his ministers. The Privy Council responded with an Act which stated: “The Lords of his majesty’s Privy Council do hereby ordain any person who owns, or will not disown, the late treasonable document (the Apologetical Declaration), whether they have arms or not, to be immediately put to death.” This opened the way for summary execution without trial and the following period, covering the autumn of 1684 and the whole of 1685, became known as the ‘Killing Times’.
The growing prosperity and relative tolerance of Ulster during this period attracted not only many of the impoverished Galloway people, but also Puritans, Quakers and other Dissenters, mainly from the northern counties of England and especially from Yorkshire and Durham. These settlers were to leave their own impression on the language and personality of Ulster.
To be continued