Margaret WILSON, The Wigton Martyr

Female 1667 - 1685  (18 years)


Personal Information

  • Name Margaret WILSON 
    Suffix The Wigton Martyr 
    Born 1667  Cumnock on Nith, Ayr, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Died 11 May 1685  Solway Firth , Wigton, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Penninghame Churchyard , Wigton, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • (Research):The classical passage on the martyrdom of Margaret Wilson and Margaret Maclachlan is in Wodrow's The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland.

      " Upon the 11th of May," he says, " we meet with the barbarous and wicked execution of two excellent women near Wigton, Margaret McLachlan(Lauchlison) and Margaret Wilson." Margaret Wilson, aged eighteen years, and her sister, Agnes, who was not yet thirteen years old, were the daughters of Gilbert Wilson, tenant of Glenvernoch in the parish of Penninghame, who conformed to Episcopacy.

      The girls adhered to the Covenants, fell into the hands of the persecutors, and were imprisoned. Later, they left the district and wandered through Carrick, Galloway, and Nithsdale with their brothers and some other Covenanters. On the death of King Charles, there was some slackening of the persecution, and the girls returned to Wigton.

      "There was an acquaintance of theirs, Patrick Stuart, whom they took to be a friend and wellwisher, but he was really not so, and betrayed them; being in their company, and seeking an occasion against them, he proposed drinking the king's health; this they modestly declined: upon which he went out, informed against them, and brought in a party of soldiers, and seized them. As if they had been great malefactors, they were put in the thieves' hole, and after they had been there some time, they were removed to the prison where Margaret McLauchlan was.

      " Margaret Maclachlan (Lauchlison)was the widow of a tenant in the parish of Kirkinner, "a country woman of more than ordinary knowledge, discretion, and prudence, and for many years of singular piety and devotion: she would take none of the oaths now pressed upon women as well as men, neither would she desist from the duties she took to be incumbent upon her, hearing Presbyterian ministers when providence gave opportunity, and joining with her Christian friends and acquaintances in prayer, and supplying her relations and acquaintances when in straits, though persecuted. It is a jest to suppose her guilty of rising in arms and rebellion, though indeed it was a part of her indictment, which she got in common form now used." She was very roughly dealt with in prison, and was allowed neither fire nor bed although she was sixty-three years of age. All the three prisoners were indicted "for rebellion, Bothwellbridge, Ayr's Moss, and being present at twenty field-conventicles". None of them had ever been within many miles of Bothwell or Ayr's Moss. "Agnes Wilson could be but eight years of age at Ayr's Moss, and her sister but about twelve or thirteen; and it was impossible they could have any access to those risings: Margaret MeLauchlan was as free as they were." When the Abjuration Oath was put to them, they refused it, the assize found them guilty, and the sentence was that "upon the 11th instant, all the three should be tied to stakes fixed within the flood-mark in the water of Blednoch near Wigton, where the sea flows at high water, there to be drowned".

      Gilbert Wilson secured the liberation of the younger girl under a bond of a hundred pounds sterling to present her when he was required to do so. The sentence was executed on Margaret Maclachlan (Lauchlison)and Margaret Wilson. The narrative must be given as it stands in Wodrow's History. "The two women were brought from Wigton, with a numerous crowd of spectators to so extraordinary an execution. Major Windram with some soldiers guarded them to the place of execution. The old woman's stake was a good way in beyond the other, and she was first despatched, in order to terrify the other to a compliance with such oaths and conditions as they required. But in vain, for she adhered to her principles with an unshaken steadfastness. When the water was overflowing her fellow-martyr, some about Margaret Wilson asked her, what she thought of the other now struggling with the pangs of death. She answered, what do I see but Christ (in one of his members) wrestling there. Think you that we are the sufferers? no, it is Christ in us, for he sends none a warfare upon their own charges. When Margaret Wilson was at the stake, she sang the 25th Psalm from verse 7th, downward a good way, and read the 8th chapter to the Romans with a great deal of cheerfulness, and then prayed.

      While at prayer, the water covered her: but before she was quite dead, they pulled her up, and held her out of the water till she was recovered, and able to speak; and then by major Windram's orders, she was asked, if she would pray for the king. She answered, 'She wished the salvation of all men, and the damnation of none.' One deeply affected with the death of the other and her case, said, 'Dear Margaret, say God save the king, say God save the king.' She answered in the greatest steadiness and composure, 'God save him, if he will, for it is his salvation I desire.' Whereupon some of her relations near by, desirous to have her life spared, if possible, called out to major Windram, 'Sir, she hath said it, she hath said it.' Whereupon the major came near, and offered her the abjuration, charging her instantly to swear it, otherwise return to the water. Most deliberately she refused, and said, ' I will not, I am one of Christ's children, let me go.' Upon which she was thrust down again into the water, where she finished her course with joy."

      She is the subject of the painting "The Martyr of Solway" by the artist John Everett Millais which now hangs in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool.

      The persecution of her parents continued after Margaret's death and the imposition of fines and the weekly journeys to pay them eventually ruined her father and he lost the farm and died in utter poverty. Her mother had to be cared for by friends-

      "Thus troubles continuing upon him for some years together, with his attendance upon courts at Wigton almost once a week, thirteen miles distant from his house, his going to Edinburg, and other harrassings, brought him under exceeding great losses. As a modest calculation they were about five thousand marks, and all for no action or principle of his own, for he was entirely conformist. He died some six or eight years ago in great poverty, though one of the most substantial countrymen in that country"

      And his wife (1711) lives, a very aged widow,relient upon the charity of friends.

      Reference THE COVENANTERS. By Elizabeth Oaks Smith extracted from the "Minute of The Kirk Session,Penninghame,February 19,1711."


      Margaret McLauchlan (Lauchlison), was the widow of John Mulligen or Millikin, carpenter, a tenant in the parish of Kirkinner, in the shire of Galloway, in the farm of Drumjargan, belonging to Colonel Vans of Barnbarroch.She had been listed as "Disorderly"in the 1684 Parishioners list .
    Person ID I6734  Kirkpatrick Family Archives
    Last Modified 13 Jan 2015 

    Father Gilbert WILSON, ,of Glenvernoch,Parish of Penninghame, Scotland,   b. 1643, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Abt 1704  (Age 61 years) 
    Mother Jonet MCILWIAN,   b. 1647, Wigtown, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aft 1711  (Age 65 years) 
    Married Abt 1666 
    • Some records list Isabell RAMSEY as the wife of Gilbert, yet others Beatrix CRAIB. In the Parishioners Roll of 29th September, 1684 , Gilbert is recorded as the husband , Jonet McIlwian as his wife ,and as such she is recorded here as the spouse.I have seen no other validated record for the others .An Isabell Ramsey is indeed listed in the above parishioners Roll,but as a servant woman of the Laird of Stewart Castle,,under a list for Castel Stewart the Mains.(both locations are within the Parish of Penighame.)
      Ref -"A List of the Parishioners' names within the Parish of Penighame. September 29, 1684"-The Scottish Record Society.

      In 1684, Gilbert Wilson, a Wigtonshire farmer and his wife attended conformist services. However, their children, Margaret (18), Thomas (16), and Agnes (13), became attracted to the teaching of the Covenanters and attended illegal 'conventicles' to hear their prayers and sermons. Mr Wilson was fined for his childrens' nonconformity, and treated like outlaws, the children took themselves into the hills of upper Galloway and spent months hiding from the troopers.Four brothers of Margaret Wilson, the Wigtown Martyr, fled to Ulster for refuge.
    Family ID F2059  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart




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