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 the two notorious persecutors of the Covenanters.

Robert Grierson of Lagg and John Graham of Claverhouse

Lagg (Wikipedia) and Claverhouse (Wikipedia) were intimate friends, companions in wickedness, who delighted in debauchery and profanity, in pillaging and in bloodshed. Two characters more fitted for the work in which they were engaged could scarcely have been found. Galloway, Nithsdale, and Annandale, was the wide field over which they roamed, committing all kinds of wickedness, and perpetrating the most unrestrained acts of injustice, rapine, and cruelty. The district appointed them by the council was considered by them as their appropriate kingdom, within the limits of which they might do as they pleased, without the fear of being called to account, and without the least regard to the remonstrances of the peasantry.

The names of these two men were terrible to the people, and their coming to any place was considered as a circumstance much more to be dreaded than the visitation of a pestilence; and men fled at the very report of them as from an invading army, and hid themselves in the mountain deserts and in the caves and holes of the earth. The distress of the people in certain localities is scarcely conceivable; and this distress was owing simply to the lawless ravages of these unprincipled Cavaliers, who rioted in mischief, and enriched themselves by the spoliation of their countrymen. It would be saying too little merely to affirm that the council winked at the villanies perpetrated by the troopers throughout the land, for their procedure was positively sanctioned by that infamous court. The members of the council plotted mischief in the secrecy of their chambers, or in the hours of their disgraceful carousals, and what they plotted they commissioned their emissaries to execute. Wicked as the council were, their agents were equally so; and if the leading actors in this crusade were bad men, their subordinate instruments were still worse - the subalterns in the army imitated their commanders, and even outstripped them in proficiency in vice, and in all degradation of conduct and character.

The names of Lagg and Claverhouse are to this day almost as familiar in the cottages of the south of Scotland as in the times in which they lived; and this shows the dreadful notoriety as persecutors to which these men had attained. Not only were they and the rest of their order feared by the Nonconformists - they were equally dreaded by those of their own party. The farmers and little lairds, of whatever religious profession, were, in common with others, frequently subjected to their pillagings and unceremonious intrusions, whenever it served their purpose. These two companions in sin emboldened each other in their wickedness, and proceeded from bad to worse, till they reached such proficiency in iniquity as to leave far behind them many of their competitors in the career of crime. No deed of ruffianism was too daring for these men, and no atrocity too revolting and fierce. Their names have been transmitted with indelible infamy to posterity. It will be long before the south of Scotland forget that such men shed profusely, and without remorse, the blood of a pious ancestry, whose only fault was "non-compliance with a wicked time."

In their ramblings through the country they brought terror and ruin to many a hearth, dragging the parents from the children, and the children from the parents. These associates in crime came one day, in their raids, to a place called the Glen of Dunscore (Dumfries-shire), for the purpose of visiting a family who was suspected of harbouring the outcasts, to see what might be acquired by way of pillage; for they were mean men, and guilty of low acts of theft, infinitely beneath the dignity of gentlemen - gentlemen! that title never befitted them. It was on a fine day in harvest, and all belonging to the house were in the field, gathering the yellow treasures of autumn. The field, it would appear, in which the reapers were employed, was not in sight of the troopers, otherwise it is likely they would have visited it first, for the purpose of apprehending those whom they wished to secure, or at least to interrogate them respecting the wanderers.

When they arrived at the house, no person was within but a little girl of ten or twelve years of age. Claverhouse was artful, and could easily assume a great deal of apparent gentleness of manner, and by this means he could throw unsuspecting people off their guard, and expiscate all he wished to know; but Lagg was blustering and imperious, and attempted to gain his object by frowns and threatenings. He accosted the child, and asked some questions respecting the sort of people that frequented the house, and if she ever carried food to people in the fields - to which questions no satisfactory answers were returned, further than that she carried porridge to the herd-boy, when he could not leave the cows in the fields; and that as to the night lodgers she knew nothing, because she went early to bed, and slept soundly till the morning. Lagg considered this as an evasion, and began to storm at the child, and threatened to shoot her on the spot. On this she burst into tears, and cried vehemently. "You have spoiled the play entirely," said Claverhouse; "she will now say anything, be it right or wrong, to save her life." When they were gone, the girl ran to the harvest-field to tell what had happened. The reapers were alarmed, and dreading a second visit from the party, betook themselves to their hiding-places. The chief place of resort in cases of alarm was an old kiln at the end of the barn, which had been fitted up for the reception of a number of persons at a time, and was considered as a place of great safety by the family. Here they concealed themselves till they thought all danger was over. In such painful and precarious circumstances were our ancestors placed! -they could not pursue their occupations in the house nor in the field with safety, because strolling military bands, like plundering and murdering banditti, had spread themselves over the whole land.

But Claverhouse had, in the south, other companions in iniquity besides Lagg. Lowrie of Maxwelltown was one of his associates, a person whom Wodrow denominates "a bloodthirsty man." The small lairds who abetted the measures of the persecuting party, for the purpose of securing their lands, were the means of immense annoyance and distress in their own localities. They acted like little tyrants, and laboured strenuously to ingratiate themselves with those in power, for the sake of worldly advantage. The lairds, and the curates, and the dragoons, were the three grand instruments of mischief in the landward parts; so that the oppression of the country was very great.

The Milton of Tynron (Dumfries-shire) was at this time possessed by a worthy man of the name of McCaig. His leanings toward the covenanting cause were well known, and being a small proprietor, something was to be had by the voracious plunderers in case of his conviction. Claverhouse and Lowrie agreed to surprise the dwelling of this honest man, and to make him their captive. They accordingly approached the place in as stealthy a manner as possible, lest the object of their search should by any means elude them. When they came to the house, McCaig was concealed in a garret. The stair by which the ascent was made to this place was in a decayed and crazy state, and could be ventured on only by those who were thoroughly acquainted with its condition. A full-grown person leaning his entire weight on it, would have brought the whole to the floor with a crash, to the endangering of life and limb.

When Claverhouse had accomplished a strict search in the under part of the house, he proposed to ascend the garret to ascertain what could be found there. He approached the foot of the ladder, for the purpose of making a nimble flight to the attics, when Mrs McCaig cried that the steps would give way. This to the Cavalier seemed to intimate that there was somewhat in the loft she did not wish to he discovered, and therefore he was more bent on attempting the ascent. He placed his foot firmly on the lowest step, and then on the next, and so on, till the frail framework began to creak, and to exhibit symptoms of instantly giving way. Lowrie cried, and Claverhouse clung to his dubious position on the ascent, fearing to move either up or down lest he should be precipitated, with the fragments of the ladder to the floor. At length he succeeded in cautiously reaching the ground, leaving the garret and its contents unmolested. When they found the ascent impracticable, they drew their swords, and reaching upwards with the full length of the arm, inserted the sharp points between the open spaces of the boards, through which they thrust their glittering blades, if peradventure they might by this means discover McCaig concealed on the floor above. And they were right in their conjectures, and almost unerring in probing the very spot where he lay, for the point of one of the swords grazed his knees, piercing his clothes through and through without wounding him. Had the sword been thrust upward a few inches onward in the same line, it would have entered his bowels or some other vital part, and the wound might have proved mortal; and, at any rate, the dripping of the blood through the crevices must have revealed the secret of his hiding-place, and then his capture was certain. Having, however, failed in their attempt, the men of blood withdrew, and McCaig, at his own convenience, descended from his retreat.

The name of Lagg, when anything suggests itself respecting him, cannot easily be passed by. He was one day advancing with his troopers in the neighbourhood of Auldgirth Bridge, which spans the Nith about eight miles above the town of Dumfries. It was, we say, in the neighbourhood of where the bridge now stands; for it existed not in those days, when men in peril had to pass the flooded streams without such aids. The scenery around this spot is enchanting. The lands of Blackwood, a finely cultivated estate, stretching along the banks of the Nith, and the pleasant mansion-house situated not far from the margin of the stream, are the admiration and delight of every traveller who passes this sweet vale. In the days of Lagg, there were none of the improvements now visible in this lovely locality; still the natural scenery was fine, and could not fail to arrest the attention of even the uncultivated troopers.

Lagg was descending a road, through what is called the Crainey Wood, leading with him a helpless prisoner. The circumstance became known, and a friend of the captive bent on his rescue, concealed himself in the wood by the side of the highway, with the full determination even to peril his own life in attempting to affect the deliverance of his friend. Accordingly, when the party came directly opposite to the place where the man had secreted himself, he sprang with a shout from the thicket, and demanded the release of the captive. Lagg, probably having but few men with him, was taken by surprise, and thinking that in all likelihood a company of men were concealed in the underwood, and prepared to fire from the secrecy of their ambuscade, if he should happen to manifest the least resistance, complied, and delivered the prisoner to the assailant. His fears prevailed, and his courage fell before the valorous bearing of the Covenanter, who generously endangered his own life to save his friend.