From Lights and Shadows, or Scottish Character and Scenery. By Cincinnatus Caledonius (John Gordon Barbour) and published Edinburgh & Dumfries 1824.


In 1685, when Bruce and Grierson of Lagg were hanging and murdering wherever they pleased, in Galloway and Nithsdale, two men had a remarkable exit near Irongray Kirk.

They were surprised on Lochenkit Moor, along with other four. The four were shot, and their graves may yet be seen on the solitary moor. The two alluded to were taken to Bridge of Orr, where Lagg was pressing the abjuration. Bruce, wicked as he was, would have these two tried by jury. Grierson swore they should not.

Accordingly, next day, the 20th February, the thumbs and toes of each of these men were tied together. They were then slung, one on each side, over a horse ! Thus were they carried to a knoll near the Kirk of Irongray.

There was a very large oak tree growing there at that time. By Lagg's orders, they were both hung on that spreading tree. When they were coming to the tree, a neighbour asked one of them, Alexander M'Cubbin, - "If he had any word to send to his wife ?" " I leave her, and the two babes on God Almighty," was the reply.

When the person employed as executioner asked his forgiveness - "Poor man ! I forgive thee! Thou hast a wretched calling upon earth!" was M'Cubbin's answer.

But somewhat remarkable was observed of this tree. From that hour it never bore a leaf! The showers and sunshine of spring never more could give it vegetation. The first summer passed by  - no leaf of this arose! The second came, in all its luxuriance - the oak tree withstood its influence ! The third year it withered and died! Before this event it was noted as the healthiest oak in the forest. None shot forth a fresher leaf - none expanded a more grateful shade.

There grows a little plantation of oaks, near the spot, at the present hour. Near the lower end of this knoll can yet be seen the rustic tombstone of the two steady martyrs. The inscription bears, that it marks the graves of Edward Gordon and of Alexander M'Cubbin.

There hath been a "Jeanie Deans" beautifully portrayed by the author of "Waverley." That Jeanie Deans is fixed at St Leonard's - and that Jeanie Deans is marked as a covenanter.

But the real Jeanie Deans, or the prototype of the uncommon maid of St Leonard's, lies, in her dust, near the grave of these martyrs. Yes - in the church-yard of Irongray, lies the dust of Helen Walker; and Helen Walker went to London, on foot, to obtain the pardon of a condemned sister. And she succeeded. And often, often after her return, was she seen to wander nigh the grave of these martyrs!

And these things are true ! And oft hath the writer of this tale journeyed along these sweet banks of the Cairn. For the Cairn glides gently by near the grave of the martyrs. And oft hath he dwelt on the days that are past. And well may his reminiscence be here; for, while he drops a tear o'er the martyred pair, he rejoices that the "Jeanie Deans" of Irongray was his distant relation!