Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cameronians and the 'Killing Times'

Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday. We remember those who gave their lives for their country: nearly a million in the First War, 343 (so far) in Afghanistan.

Last month I was in Edinburgh, watching members of my old Regiment, now 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, marching down the Royal Mile, with bayonets fixed and colours flying, following a successful tour in Afghanistan. Successful, although three were killed in action.

It so happened that we parked in the 'Grassmarket' and returning to the car I passed the Covenanters Memorial. At the spot of the old public gallows, it commemorates others who willingly put themselves in harm's way. The legend reads, "Many Martyrs and Covenanters died for the Protestant Faith on this spot."

Over 100 'Covenanters' died for their adherence to presbyterianism between 1661 and 1688. The name comes from the 'Solemn League and Covenant', an agreement of 1643 with the English Parliament that presbyterianism would be preserved in Scotland. However after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the pendulum swung to the other extreme: presbyteriansim was outlawed and ministers were ejected from their parishes.

Staunch presbyterians followed ministers into the hills where they worshipped at open air services known as conventicles.
Cap badge of the Cameronians
Here they were hunted and if caught, arrested and executed. Armed picquets were posted to keep a look out during services and this was the origin of the Cameronians, a famous Scottish Regiment, formed in 1689, disbanded in 1968.
The period between 1680 and 1688 was (with considerable justification) known as the 'Killing Times'.

The last of the Covenanting martyrs was James Renwick from Moniaive near Dumfries, hanged on 17 February 1688.
The monument was opened in 1954 with a Guard of Honour found by the Cameronians.

The names of those who died are remembered on this memorial, just as those who died for their country in so many wars are remembered in war memorials throughout the country.

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