Claverhouse and his dragoons slaughter Matthew from Blair Farm- 1685

Barrhill home page  "It is probable that Matthew, like the two Barrhill worthies, had been at Bothwell Bridge or some other of the Covenanting " Rencounters," which caused him to be " wanted " by the Government of those days. Accordingly, some time in the year 1685, a party of dragoons found their way to this quiet Stinchar valley in quest of him, and the circumstances under which they found him are sufficiently human to add a touch of pathos to his death. Blair Farm Matthew was the son of the farmer at Blair, about a mile above Barrhill, and at that time was courting a Miss M'Ewen, daughter of the farmer at Barbour, about a mile and a half below the village. The troopers, learning this, surrounded the wood one moon- light night, when the inmates were engaged at family worship. M'Ilwraith escaped into a wood close by, but when search was made he took to the open fields. The soldiers' horses soon became bogged, but four of them leaped off and continued the pursuit on foot. Matthew led them down the Duisk, crossed the lands of Alticane and Pinwherry, and plunged into a glen on the farm of Dangart, in the vale of the Stinchar. In ascending the further side of this glen, the leading pursuer threw his dirk and struck him on the heel, severing the tendon Achilles. Although thus rendered unable lo run, he had strength enough, when his pursuer came up, to stab him to the heart with his own weapon. The others, however, speedily arrived, and shot him. A night and a day passed, and no one was old enough to remove the dead body. At last, as in the case at Barrhill, two young women came, wrapped the corpse in a grey plaid, and carried it to Colmonell Churchyard, about two miles distant, and there digged a grave for it close by the wall. One of these young women was named Janet Carson. She lived to old age, and often told the story to her grand- daughter, who told it to the late Peter Douglas, joiner in Glenluce, who died in 1866. Peter even confessed that when he was a young man, he had, one moonlight night, opened the grave of Matthew M'llwraith, and found the bones of a man lying about 18 inches below the surface, still wrapped in the remains of what appeared to be Janet Carson's grey plaid. It was a popular tradition that M'llwraith had been a very tall man, but the bones (Peter thought) merely indicated a man of 5 feet 10inches, or thereby.
And thus the sun set on Matthew M'llwraith."
Rev R Lawson "Places of interest about Girvan" 1892
 Colmonell Kirkyard

 There is a blue painted gravestone which was erected in the eighteenth century to the memory of James McCracken and on the back of the stone, is the verse commemorating the death of Matthew. The McCracken family were permitted to use the covenanter's grave provided they renewed the epitaph. [2]

The earliest inscription to the McCrackens is 1772 and so it must have been after this, that the stone was erected. The original epitaph is recorded in A Cloud of Witnesses [3]and it is from this text that the stone mason quotes.

 The McIlwraithepitaph to Matthew McIlwriath...
 I Matthew McIlwraith in Parish of Colmonell,
By Bloody Claverhouse I fell,
Who did Command that I should die,
For owning Covenanted presbytry,
My Blood a Witness still doth stand,
Gainst all defections in this Land.
  ..and a quotation from Revelations:McIlwraith2
Also to be found on the title page of A Cloud of Witnesses.
 These are they which came
out of great tribulation
and have washed their robes
and made them white
in the blood of the



There is an octagonal plaque which simply states: THE COVENANTER'S GRAVE
Could this be part of the original? 


Where are the descendants of Matthew's family?

In the census of 1851, the family living at Blair farm was John and Mary McIlwraith, with their three daughters and a son. Could this be just an incredible coincidence? There had not been a continuous line of McIlwraiths at Blair: the family in 1841 was Miller and John was born in Maybole.[4]

The Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association

The tenacity and the sacrifices of the Covenanters ensured that we today enjoy civil and religious freedoms, and the Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association was established in 1966 with a view to preserving the many memorials which date from the "killing Times" of 1638-88. The membership of the association totals approximately 400, and all members are volunteers. Many members visit and care for the memorials, carrying out simple cleaning and tidying operations. More difficult, technical work is carried out by professional sculptors..

 Sources of information   [1] Scottish Covenanter Stories - Tales from the killing times. by Dane Love, Visit
In this unique and fascinating account, Dane Love recounts 50 tales from Covenanting folklore including the stories of all the main martyrs...... this book is an indispensable primer.
   [2]Standing Witnesses - An Illustrated Guide to the Scottish Covenanters. Thorbjorn Campbell, Published by Saltire Society, Edinburgh 1996.  
   [3} Cloud of Witnesses, for the Royal Prerogatives of Jesus Christ:
or, The last speeches and testimonies of those who have suffered for the truth in Scotland since the year 1680. Published, Glasgow 1741
   [4] Census records, kept at Kyle and Carrick District Library, Local History Section.
Carnegie Library, Ayr.
   Colmonell Kirkyard Monumental Inscriptions, Published by Alloway and Southern Ayrshire Family History Society, c/o Alloway Public Library, Doonholm Road, Alloway, Ayr, KA7 4QQ.
This reference gives the inscriptions and indicates the locality of the monuments.
  Memoirs of the Church of Scotland , Daniel Defoe, London,1717.