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Samuel M'Ewen, seventeen, without any indictment, got sentence of death passed upon them at twelve o'clock, and executed at three [Wodrow—sentenced at one, and executed at five], in the Grassmarket. But a more full account of them afterward, if the Lord will, being in the Canongate Ironhouse with them the three days that they were in Edinburgh. [This purpose Patrick Walker did not live to execute.)
“ The said Robert (John) Semple was brought to Hamilton. Duke William examined him, charging him with being a troubler of the country, to which he answered, that he could give no suitabler answer than what Elijah gave to Ahab, that he and his father's house had been the troublers of our Israel.
“The Duke thought upon this after. Possibly this answer brought him in mind of what active hand he had in that persecution, and what trouble his father-in-law bred in our Israel in the year 1648, for which he lost his head in England. He sent for the dean of that place, and inquired at him where he would find that place of Scripture. The baptized brute could not tell him, at which he was offended, and said, 'What a base, naughty set of people are all of you, for all the encouragement you have! If I had inquired at the country fellow, his answer would have been ready.'
“ After this, Robert (John) Semple, with Gabriel Semple [perhaps a misprint of Patrick Walker's for Gabriel Thomson), aged eighteen years, who escaped out of the Canongate Ironhouse, upon the 19th day of August before, to which I was witness, and John Watt, were quickly sent to Edinburgh, and carried straight before the Council. After examination, about eleven of the clock, Robert (John) Semple was squeezed in the Thumbkins, to the frightful crushing of the bones of his thumbs. He lay in that tormenting torture above five hours, which length of time exceeded all of the many that they had tormented in these hellish engines of Boots and Thumbkins. After four o'clock they convened, and passed doom upon all the three, without any indictment. Then they sent them down to the Gallowlee, when it was dark, and suddenly executed them.
“After the bloody rope was about John Watt's neck, having no more need of the Bible, he threw it down, saying, 'Give that to my brother. A woman, yet alive, my near neighbour, kept it in her hands. One of the town-officers threw it from her, and gave it to cursed Peter Graham, captain of the Town-guard, that son of Belial. He cried, “Where is the woman that owns this Bible?' Janet Fimerton said, 'I own it, to give it to his brother. Graham said, “Secure her.'
“At the same time he enclosed many people, and all, who would not swear that these men justly deserved to die, were made prisoners —which many women refused. He marched quickly with these to the Town Tolbooth, and left the hangman to cut them i.e., John Semple and his companions] down, and the Town-officers to be his guard. When cut down, he was going to strip them of their clothes [but], the Collegioners (i.e., the students at the College] sent him and the Town-officers off in great haste. About twelve friendly women, waiting on to see the end, gathered about them, who had coffins and linen to order their corpses ; but, being very dark, they laid them in their coffins with their clothes, and rolled their plaids for handspakes ; came up Leith Wynd, and down St Mary's Wynd, and up the Cowgate to the Greyfriars' gate (about a mile). The Town-guard got orders to take the corpses from them. The noise rose ; they let the corpses fall, and fled for their lives. The Townguard kept guard upon them all night, and the next morning trailed them down on sleds and buried them at the gallows' foot.
“ The said Janet, and most of these women, were taken that night, and kept in prison until the 18th day of May, 1685, when they, with many others, both men and women, were gathered from several prisons through the land, and sent to Dunnottar Castle, sixty-eight miles from Edinburgh, where they lay in great distress, until the 18th day of August next; then brought back to Leith, and sentence of banishment passed upon a hundred of them to New Jersey (whereof twenty-four were women), without any libel, whereof the said Janet
“As soon as they went a shipboard, she said 'Farewell, bloody, sinful Scotland, I will never come back to thee again; the seabillows will be my winding sheet. The purchased and promised blessings of the Lord and mine be multiplied upon the poor suffering remnant, the excellent ones in whom I have had all my delight and pleasures on earth. Which came to pass, that she and many others died by the way. Pitlochie, a professing laird in Fife, got a gift of them from the bloody Council, to carry them there to be his slaves; but, behold, he and his whole family, except his eldest daughter, died by the way."
The letter of John Semple is not in the original edition. It appeared first in the fourth edition. The letter is addressed to his mother and sister then in prison. According to the above extract from Patrick Walker, this prison was Dunnottar.—ED.
PON the 14th day of November, 1684, suffered John Watt
in the parish of Kilbride, and John Semple, in the parish
of Glassford ; whose testimonies, if they be extant, came not to the hands of the publishers of this collection; only it is certain, from their indictments, that they died for their adherence to the same truths at the Gallowlee, which was in the twilight of the evening, while they were singing the eleventh section of the cxix. Psalm, particularly these words in the eighty-fourth verse :
“ How many are thy servant's days ?
When wilt thou execute
That do me persecute?”
The soldiers made such a hellish noise, and turned back so upon the people that were spectators of the action, that the people verily conceived they should have been trodden down and massacred on the spot, which occasioned all to flee, so that none of their Christian friends durst stay to do the last duty to them, in dressing their dead bodies, but they were left to the insolent soldiers' disposal.
COPY of a LETTER written by John Semple in Craigthorn, while in prison. Directed to his mother and sister, who were then in prison.
“Loving MOTHER AND SISTER,—This is to let you know, that, that day I was brought to the Tolbooth of Canongate, and we were put into the irons, and the shackles put upon our arms, and to
morrow [i.e., next day), about eleven o'clock, I was brought before the Council, and they showed me the paper which was found upon the crosses and kirk doors, and they asked if I knew it? I answered, What know I what is in that paper? The duke having it in his hand, the rest of the Council bade him read it to me; he read some lines of it, and then said to the rest, it would take a long time to read. They offered to give it to me to read, and promised me time to consider it, if I would give my judgment of it. I answered, I will not have it, neither will I be judge of papers.
Q. “Own ye the king's authority, as it is now established ?'
Then they said, “To be short with you, own ye the Covenants and Presbyterian principles ?'
A. “I own the Covenants and Presbyterian principles with my whole heart.'
“ Then said they, “So, that is a frank and free fellow.'
“ Then they caused to take me away for a while, and I was brought before them again. And then they said, “Come and declare the truth, and give your oath what you know concerning the contrivers and publishers of these papers.'
A. “I am not bound to wrong my neighbours, neither will I give an oath.'
“ After some questions and answers, the Chancellor said, he should make me do it; for, he said, he would make me as small as snuff. I answered, 'Sometimes persecutors have caused the saints to blaspheme.
“The bishop's brother said, 'I was a liar, for the Scripture says no such thing.'
“I said, that it says the same thing, and I told him where it
“Then they caused to take me away; and then a little after they brought me before them again the third time, and pressed upon me again to declare; I utterly refused.
“ Then they caused the executioner to take me a little aback, and made me sit with my back to the bar, and threw on the Thumbkins upon my thumbs, until I fell into a sound [i.e., swoon); and when I overcame again (i.e., recovered], they were standing about, looking upon me, and bidding me rise, and then I rose.
" Then some of them said, What will ye say now to the Chancellor? I said, I will say nothing to him.
"Then they took me to the Town Tolbooth, to the Ironhouse.
“Now I desire that I could bless the Lord for this, that He kept me ; for, in the time of the torture, I spake not a word good nor bad, but got it borne, until I fell into a sound [i.e., swoon)All their countenances dashed [i.e., disturbed) me nothing ; for I did not fear their faces, nor the faces of hundreds, who were gazing upon me, from about eleven o'clock till seven o'clock in the afternoon. And I
thought that this was a sign of God's presence; but the shining of His countenance was not with my spirit. But I was helped to believe and hold fast; for I knew not but that day or to-morrow might have been my last day.
“The next morning I was brought before one of them into a chamber.
“ He said, 'How are ye advised to-day?' I said, “As I was.'
Q. “What is the reason that ye will not tell the truth to the Chancellor ; for it is a sin not to do it?'
A. “ • Doeg told the truth when he told Saul, that he saw David come to Ahimelech, and that Ahimelech gave him bread, and did enquire of God for him, and yet the Scripture calls it lying (Ps. lii. 3). And therefore there is a sinful pernicious speaking of the truth, which is a great sin, and accounted as a lie.' I said to him also, that, knowing the terror of the Lord, I thought that the terror of men was the lighter to be borne, and that I would say no more than I had said, though they should torture all the fingers and toes that I had, till they should be cut off. But as the Lord should give me strength I would stand.
“ After this he never opened his mouth more, but humbred and rose up, and went his way, and the keeper brought me back to the Ironhouse, where I remain. One thing is come to my mind which he said more ; that it was for rebellion against the king that they were pursuing for. I answered, so did the persecutors of the Son of God say, that it was for rebellion, for they called him an enemy to Cæsar. Moreover, they threatened me with the Boots. Now, what the Lord will permit them to do, I know not; but there are hard things determined against me ; and I am very weak, for flesh and blood are but weak, therefore forget not my case. I am well contented with my lot, blessed be the Lord, only I am afraid of my own weakness lest I wrong the truth.
“No more at present, but I wish that the Lord's presence may be with you, my dear mother and sister. Give my love to my brother and sisters. I am in good health, blessed be God; my thumbs, they are not very sore, only they are something feelless [i.c., insensible] ; I and others thought, they should scarcely have ever served me, at least for a long time.