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January 8th 1654

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English army captain slain in Kirkmichael

Cromwell’s occupation of Scotland was efficient but did little to win the hearts of the people. Quite apart from the fact that the English, as traditional enemies, were not popular there was the little matter of the costs of the occupation. A levy was imposed on every community for the maintenance of the occupying forces. Though nominally the English were Puritans and demanded high moral standards the sins of the flesh did occasionally manifest themselves, sometimes with disastrous results.

The Captain of the English soldiers stationed at Kirkmichael in Strathardle fell in love with the daughter of the tenant at Davan Farm. His advances were repulsed but on Sunday January 8th 1654, seeing her father and brother going to the kirk, he decided to carry her off by force.

He gathered a small force of his men and set off to Davan where he found the girl milking the cows. He ordered the men to seize her and place her on his horse but before this could be done her screams had brought out her youngest brother and some other youngsters. They, having no other arms, began pelting the soldiers with stones to such good effect that they began to retreat. Meanwhile the brother, moving carefully in front of the Captain’s horse struck it on the forehead with a large stone so that it died instantly. The officer was thrown to the ground with such force that he let go of his sword and before he could recover it the boy had seized it and killed him.

There was an immediate panic among the other English soldiers and they fled back towards Kirkmichael closely pursued by the boys and then by neighbours who had been alerted by the noise of the engagement. One by one the soldiers were overtaken and killed so that only one reached the camp at Kirkmichael to raise the alarm. The boys for their part passed on the news to the congregation at Kirkmichael who came streaming out in the middle of the service and a pitched battle took place between them and the English.

That night the Captain’s body was buried in a hollow to the east of Davan. Next day the English sent a large force to Davan to retrieve the body but were unable to find it and retaliated by burning the houses of the township. However, by this time the people had already retired to the hills with their cattle.

The episode was mentioned rather more succinctly in the parish records. “8th January 1654. No sermon or collection in regard that in the midst of the sermon, the haill people were raised because some countrymen and sojers had fallen in blood.” 

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