Over the last week we had the opportunity to go on the Scottish Reformation and Covenanting History tour. Jimmy, who taught our Reformation and Covenanter History class, was the tour guide, and Graham was our driver. Every day we left Airdrie and went to different sites, starting in St. Andrews where the first events of the Scottish Reformation occurred and ending in the mountains near Moffat, where 5,000 Covenanters held a conventicle where they sang Psalms that drowned out the sound of the nearby waterfalls. Every place was special in some way, so when Jimmy asked where our favorite place was this week, I really couldn’t say.
Monday we went to St. Andrews. We had the opportunity to visit St. Andrews Castle and St. Andrews Cathedral and to spend some time walking around the town and running on the beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed. Patrick Hamilton, the first Scottish Reformer and martyr, was burned at the stake in St. Andrews in 1528 at age 24 for preaching the Gospel, thus drawing the attention of many. On the way to St. Andrews we stopped at the site where Archbishop Sharp was assassinated by some Covenanters in 1679 because he had been persecuting the Covenanters. Out of revenge for this action, the King had five random men, known to be Covenanters, taken to the nearby field and hanged on a specially built gallows, even though they had nothing to do with the assassination, and we visited their grave as well. The year 1679 marked the start of the Killing Times, a time of intense persecution of the Covenanters that lasted until 1688.
Tuesday we went to Bothwell Bridge and Drumclog, sites of two battles between the Covenanters and the King’s men in June 1679. At Drumclog the Covenanters had a small victory and gained encouragement to keep fighting. However, at Bothwell bridge, only a few weeks later, the Covenanters suffered a great loss, reminding them that they must rely on God’s power, not their own. We stopped at many grave sites as well, including the grave of John Brown who was killed for teaching Bible stories to his children. It was quite a hike up to Brown’s home and grave, and the hike opened up to us how much the king hated the Word of God, that he would send soldiers out into the middle of nowhere to kill someone who loved the Word of God.
Wednesday we travelled to Edinburgh. There, in a small museum, we saw the original Covenant, with its 4,000 signatures, some signed in human blood, indicating the seriousness that the people had for the Covenant. We also saw John Knox’s house where he died, St. Giles Cathedral where he preached, and the area of his grave. We visited the Greyfriars Church cemetery where Covenanters had been imprisoned, and where those who had been executed in the city had been buried in a mass grave with robbers, murderers, and other criminals. Because of Jimmy’s connections we even had the privilege of entering the old Scottish Parliament building (now a courthouse) where the Covenant had been drawn up.
Thursday was a day of many graves. We visited many church yards and roadside memorials where Covenanters had been killed or buried. The one that held the most significance to me was in Wigtown. There, in 1685, two women named Margaret had been drowned in the rising tide of the sea for holding to the truth of the Bible and refusing to accept the king as head of the church. The older was in her sixties, the younger was only 18 years old. It was most affecting to me when I realized that she was younger than me, and yet had no fear or regrets as she was dying because she was so hopeful in her faith in Christ.
Friday we were the “guinea pigs” for some new places on the tour that took us south into the mountains. We stopped in a cemetery in Lanark where Jimmy showed us a memorial listing the names of people in that area who had received a punishment for holding to the Covenant, including one of Jimmy’s ancestors. We also went to the Devil’s Beef Tub where the king’s men had chased two men known to be Covenanters and killed one of them. Our final stop was one of peace, where 5,000 Covenanters were gathered on a mountainside to worship God. The sound of their Psalm singing was so loud that it drowned out the sound of the nearby waterfall! Though the king’s soldiers were in the area, they realized that there were too many Covenanters for them to battle, and they left them alone.
It was a good week, filled with much learning, beautiful sights, and reminders of how we must remain faithful to God, no matter what comes against us. The stories we have been learning in Jimmy’s history class have become real to me and are stories that I will not forget. Though they are sometimes difficult to hear, or bring tears to my eyes to recall, they are stories that encourage me to stand strong in my faith as I remember those who have stood firm through greater difficulties than I have ever known.