This article is taken from the book "Traditions of the Covenanters; or, Gleanings among the Mountains," by Robert Simpson of Sanquhar. It was published in 1843 and tells the stories of two  Stewartry Covenanters.

Bell of Whiteside and Clark of Drumcloyer.

Mr Bell was the proprietor of the estate of Whiteside, in the parish of Anwoth, in Galloway, the scene of the early ministry of the famous Samuel Rutherford. He was the son of the heiress of Whiteside, who, after his father's death, was married to the Viscount of Kenmure. Mr Bell was a man of uncommon piety, and possessed of great prudence and intelligence. No gentleman in the district in which he lived was more highly esteemed for his religion; and his good sense procured the respect of persons of every class. He was implicated in the affair of Bothwell, and being a landed proprietor, he was exactly one of those against whom the persecutors wished to find a pretext. Immediately after Bothwell his house was pillaged, and all the best of his horses carried off. Claverhouse made Whiteside a garrison for his troopers, where he lay for several weeks, till all the provisions were consumed, and the meadows eaten up by the horses. When he was, through necessity, obliged to leave the place, he took away everything that was valuable, tore the very timber from the building, and destroyed the plantations. He drove away the whole stock of sheep and all the horses, and at the same time gifted the entire crop to the curate, who greedily and dishonourably received it.

For several years after Bothwell, Mr Bell was forced occasionally to wander and hide in remote places, when he durst not venture to reside in his own house. "Many were the straits," says Wodrow, "that this excellent gentleman was put to, in his wanderings, those four or five years which I must pass." The following anecdotes respecting this worthy man are in circulation in the district.

One day when he was at home, and suspecting no harm, a company of soldiers appeared near the house. It happened at the time that a female servant was employed in assorting a quantity of crockery, and it instantly occurred to her that Mr Bell should disguise himself, and take in his hand a basket filled with the earthenware, and walk slowly away, and appear as if he were a dealer in that article, proceeding to the next house to dispose of what he had to sell. The stratagem succeeded, and he passed the soldiers without discovery, and escaped.

At another time, this good man was surprised in his own house by the unexpected arrival of a troop of horsemen in quest of him. He fled into a retired apartment, and hid himself in a large oak chest which stood in a corner. The more immediate danger in this case was, lest he should die of suffocation. To prevent this, however, one of his attendants, in closing down the lid, took care to insert a piece of cloth, so as to leave an opening for the circulation of air. The soldiers examined every chamber, and groped into every nook, sparing no place whatever in the close search which they plied with all diligence and exactitude. They entered the place in which Mr Bell was concealed, in a very uproarious manner, tossing about the furniture, and prying into every place of supposable retreat. The good man lay with a beating heart, expecting every moment the covering of his hiding place would be lifted up, and himself dragged forth to a military execution. But though the old chest stood in their way, the men never seemed to notice it, because the likelihood of its interior containing the person of him whom they were so eagerly seeking never once entered their mind. They passed and re-passed the ancient piece of furniture, and probably sat down on it, as happened in cases somewhat similar, and yet it never occurred to them to lift the lid to see what was within; for though they might not expect to find the man, they might find some articles of clothing, or what else might perchance suit their cupidity, property being sometimes as acceptable to them as persons. It was therefore the more wonderful that the chest was left unheeded, and unsubjected to their greedy scrutiny. At length Mr Bell heard, to his great relief, the company leave the apartment, and retire from the place. He considered this deliverance as a special interference of Providence, and often afterwards mentioned the circumstance with heartfelt gratitude.

Owing to the incessant harassings to which this good man was subjected, and the uncertainty of a single night's security in his own house, he was obliged to seek a hiding-place in the fields. He found a cave in a retired spot, within his own lands, in which he secreted himself in time of danger. The enemy knew that he had a retreat somewhere in the vicinity, and were desirous of finding it. Its discovery, however, was not so easily accomplished, and therefore they had recourse to deception in order to gain their object. They engaged a spy to watch the movements of the household, and to notice if any person carried food in the evening dusk, or in the early morning, to any solitary place among the woods or glens in the neighbourhood. This scheme was successful, and the individual to whom the business was intrusted, followed stealthily in the steps of a person belonging to the family, who seemed, in as guarded a manner as possible, to be conveying provisions to Mr Bell in his cave. The informer, rejoicing in his success, hastened to give information, and to receive the promised reward.

Next day a company of troopers was conducted to the place, in the confident expectation of seizing on the worthy man in the secrecy of his retreat. It happened, however, that on their approach Mr Bell was not in the cave, but in a field adjoining, and from the place where he stood he observed the horsemen rapidly advancing. He instantly removed from the spot and fled. He was seen by the soldiers, and a vigorous pursuit commenced. He ascended a hill in the neighbourhood, in the direction of a field of moss, in which a number of people were digging peats. When the workers saw Mr Bell hastening at his utmost speed across the moss, they soon conjectured the cause. When he approached them, one of the men, eager to save him, cried: "Make haste, Mr Bell, throw off your coat, and take this spade and dig in the hag with me." Mr Bell instantly saw the propriety of the advice, and, without the hesitation of a moment, he did as he was bidden. In a brief space the dragoons appeared on the edge of the moss in hot pursuit. The labourers, aware of what was coming, were plying their work, and apparently unconscious of the presence of the soldiers. The commander of the party, however, with a loud voice, summoned their attention, and asked if they saw a man pass that way. One of the workers answered that a short time ago they saw a man wending his way across the moor, in the direction in which they were marching. On hearing this, the soldiers continued their pursuit, and Mr Bell was left undiscovered in the midst of the peat-makers.

This good man, however, did not always thus escape. He came to a hasty and a bloody end, by the hand of the infamous Lagg, by whose means he gained the martyr's crown, The account of his death, and the circumstances which led to it, may here be given in the words of Wodrow: "Sir Robert Grierson of Lagg, with some of Claverhouse and Strachan's dragoons, probably upon some information about Mr Bell of Whiteside, came into the parish of Tongland, in the Stewartry of Galloway, and there, upon the hill of Kirkconnel, surprised him, and David Halliday, portioner of Mayfield, Andrew MCRobert, James Clement, and Robert Lennox of Irelington, and most barbarously killed them on the spot, without so much as allowing them to pray, though earnestly desired, and, as several accounts before me bear, after they had surrendered themselves, and he had promised them quarter. And it is a frequent remark in many papers before me, that that bloody and unnatural man used, whenever he seized people in the fields, immediately to despatch them, without allowing them time to recommend themselves to the Lord. In this case, Mr Bell, whom Lagg knew well enough, earnestly desired but a quarter of an hour to prepare for death; but the other peremptorily refused it, cursing and swearing,'What the devil, have you not had time enough to prepare since Bothwell?’and so immediately shot him with the rest, and would not suffer their bodies to be buried. A little after this barbarous murder, the Viscount of Kenmure, Claverhouse, and Lagg, happened to meet at Kirkcudbright, where Kenmure challenged Lagg for his cruelty to one whom he knew to be a gentleman, and so nearly related to him, and particularly, that he would not allow his dead body to be buried. Lagg answered with an oath, ‘Take him if you will, and salt him in your beef-barrel.' Whereupon the Viscount drew upon him, and would have run him through, if Claverhouse had not interposed and parted them. Dreadful were the acts of wickedness done by the soldiers at this time, and Lagg was as deep as any."

Thus died Mr Bell, a gentleman of great respectability - a warm-hearted patriot, and a true Christian. His death happened in February 1685 - one of those slaughter years which have been emphatically denominated "the killing time." He is buried in the churchyard of Anwoth, and his resting-place is pointed out by a stone with a suitable inscription.

The following anecdotes refer to John Clark of Drumcloyer, in the parish of Irongray. This good man was often eagerly sought for, and keenly pursued by the soldiers. One day, when the troopers came in search of him, he observed them from the house, and fled. His flight was perceived, and they followed. He entered a field in which his servant was following the plough; and being for a short space out of the sight of his pursuers, he was induced by the ploughman to take his place, while he, in his master's guise, should continue the flight. When the troopers advanced to the edge of the field, they beheld the man running at his full speed, and the supposed servant quietly guiding the plough in the lengthened furrow, and whistling in chorus with the cheerful lark, carolling high in the air above his head. The troopers staid not to interrogate him, but hastened eagerly forward to seize the object of their pursuit.

There was a cave in the rocks underneath the bridge that crosses the Scar, a streamlet that lay in the way of the fugitive. When the stream happened to be full, there was no access to the cave except by seizing the branches of the trees and bushes that grew in the crevices of the rocks, and by this means descending to the mouth of the gloomy recess. When the water was fordable, any person might find the cave, and enter it with ease; but when it was swollen to overflowing, an entrance was impossible, save by the means described, and then few durst try the experiment, for life was endangered by the attempt. On this occasion the stream happened to be in full flood, rolling its foaming and muddy waters with impetuous current under the sounding arch, and past the mouth of the cavern. When the man came to the place, he swung himself down the face of the precipice by the tough and pliant branches, and safely reached the hiding-place.

As he stood beneath the rugged roof of the dripping cavity, the troopers approached, and the feet of the horses were heard passing in thundering haste along the bridge above him, and anon the sound died away in the distance. It was not long, however, till the party returned; for, when they had proceeded a certain way along the road without seeing the fugitive before them, they concluded that he must have disappeared among the thickets about the bridge. The trampling of horses, and the mingling of many voices, announced to the man in his hiding-place that his foes were collected at the bridge. The loud report of their muskets, the rustling of the bullets among the leafy branches, and the rattling of the shot against the rocks, convinced him that the suspicions of the soldiers were that he was hidden somewhere among the bushes, and that they were determined to explore his retreat. He, however, felt perfectly at ease, for he knew that their efforts would be all in vain. The cave, even supposing they knew it, could not be entered below, and if they should attempt to descend the precipice as he had done, it was amply in his power to push them one by one into the roaring flood beneath; for in his position one man could master a hundred. On this account he remained perfectly unmoved, and allowed them to spend their powder, and their ball, and their oaths, at their pleasure; for all were innocuous as it respected him; and therefore, in the security of his stronghold, he set the entire party at defiance.

When the soldiers had wearied themselves in their fruitless efforts, they left the place, and the man withdrew from his concealment at his own convenience. His disinterested conduct saved his master, and Providence preserved himself, and so both were shielded from the fury of the oppressor. This servant greatly loved his master, and was willing to peril his own life for his sake; and for the sake of that greater Master whom they both loved. "We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." He acted well, and he had his reward; for he experienced an inward satisfaction on account of what he had done. He had the approbation of all good men; and, what is infinitely greater, he had the approbation of God. Had the dragoons overtaken him, his doom was certain - he would have been shot on the spot; but yet, with this fearful risk before him, he ventured to take his master's place, if perchance he might be the means of his deliverance; and he was successful - the Lord blessed his generous effort. He was, it is said, a powerful man, and perhaps, "swift as the roes upon the mountains;" and therefore, he might fear the less, and feel more confident in his undertaking.

After this, John Clark and a number of his friends, who had met at a conventicle, narrowly escaped being captured by the troopers. The meeting was appointed to be held in a remote place among the hills, and information had been circulated among the friends with the usual secrecy. It happened, notwithstanding, as was not uncommon in such cases, that an individual who appeared to be a friend, but who was in reality a traitor, had communicated with the enemy on the subject of the projected meeting; and the troopers being apprised, were in readiness at the time specified. When the day came, the worshippers congregated in the lone waste, on a spot most suitable to the purpose. They sat down on the edge of what is called the Braiky Moss, into the heart of which, in the event of a surprisal from the enemy, they could easily retreat and save themselves. Such precautions were generally taken when the assemblies of God's people met in the wilderness. Long experience had taught them many a salutary lesson, and hence they generally chose a place near the side of an intricate morass, or at the base of a steep mountain, or on the edge of a deep ravine; and many a time did such positions save them, for the troopers could climb neither the abrupt face of the height, nor plunge into the precipitous glenlet, nor wade the sinking moss, while the people on foot could, with comparative facility, evade the pursuit of their foes.

On this occasion, the little conventicle had no suspicion that the military had received information of their meeting, and though precautions were taken, yet no interruption was anticipated. Shortly after worship was commenced, however, the dragoons made their appearance, and the direction in which they seemed to proceed plainly indicated that they were guided by one who knew the place, and that they were led on for the purpose of attacking the worshippers. When the announcement of the circumstance was made, the assembly rose to flee. John Clark saw the confusion, and perceiving the danger which might ensue if the company should be scattered along the heath, he requested them to keep in a body, and to enter the moss together, with the view of eluding their pursuers.

They, accordingly, complied with his advice, and followed the guidance of those who knew the intricacies of the morass, and who could conduct them, by a secure footing, to a place of safety. The little company, like a flock of sheep driven together by a furious dog, were collected among the dark moss-hags, a timid group, cowering before the fury of their adversaries, and looking for shelter to Him who alone can shield in the day of calamity. The horsemen rushed impetuously onward to the edge of the moss, and not sufficiently anticipating the consequences, as they saw the worshippers, with an apparently firm footing, advancing on the uneven surface of the peat ground, they urged forward, eagerly intent on reaching the little party before them. Their miscalculations, however, became speedily apparent, when the heavy horses plunged to the belly in the swampy moss one after another, and rider after rider was thrown from over the head of his charger, as if falling prostrate on the battle-field.

The terror of the conventiclers was now supplanted by the sense of the ridiculous, and they could not help, even in their precarious circumstances, enjoying the sport which the vanquished troopers now afforded them. They taunted their magnanimous assailants with the failure of their enterprise, and invited them to advance to the onslaught. But the crest-fallen soldiers, tossed from their sprawling steeds, struggling to extricate themselves, and covered ingloriously with the smeary moss, had something else to think of. Their own lives were in jeopardy, and their chief care was, if possible, to regain the firm ground. The discomfiture in the moss afforded ample time to the friends to pass over to the other side, where it was impracticable for the horsemen to follow them; but though the durst not pursue, they cried, and their cries were threats of vengeance. Their menaces, however, were unheeded, and the worshippers retired and sought their several homes in peace, and with hearts full of gratitude to the Preserver of their lives.