Wednesday, 4 September 2013


This is a poem which is, in part, a reaction to a recent visit to Wigtown, and the Martyr's Stake, an austere memorial to Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLachlan. These two women died because they would not swear obedience to King James VII of Scotland and II of England. Wilson was 18 years old, while McLachlan was described as an elderly lady.

Stone kirks, white-washed inside
with clear, glass windows
to see the Lord's Light with clarity
among Scotland's southern hills.
A leal land, for a pious People,
sprung from Ayrshire touns sic as Sorn,
Gallovidians gallus with austerity
as they listen to Prophet Peden's
fause-faced preaching from found stone pulpits.

Later, the soldiers came.
They drowned Margaret Wilson of Wigtown.
   She choked her last
                                  in salty sands,
defiant, neck forced into a bow
                                         to drown,
Margaret McLachlan by her side.
[though the Anglicanisers turned her into Lachlinson
in their official recommendations.]  
They died in Ninian's Solway sands,
some echoes of the old purity of Candida Casa
A stane stake marks it,
planted in dreich peat moss
to show the way to the lonely.
This choking, damp death,
                                        no thrill of redemptive fire,
just another refused oath.
Royal soldiers failing,
choking submission never coming.
A victory to sap the soul.

In the hills, the Conventicles
were armed and ready,
in the heaven of their Galloway glens,
pulpits handy-made from the same stane
later hacked to build the wee kirks
which would have ruled all Scotland
if only the Time of Saints had persisted.

The Document itself remains impressive.
A multitude of ready souls
                                      of all kinds
                                      of all pairts, all trades
scratched their names on the great Parchment.
No crown, or mitre, ever really moved this many,
stirred souls like this army
                                       of such stiff principle.

Orange drummers will beat
                                         and bleat
that these Covenanters are their folk.
But Peden's People never bent their knee
                                        to any crowned head
[save the thorny one
                              of the Prophet's theories and dilemmas].
Charlie's Tartan Army
claimed Scotland's souvenir tin image
when they marched to Derby and back.
A culture hi-jacked by the dreams of a Prince,
with Border baronet Scott later completing the job,
banging the drum for Bonnie Dundee and the boys
on the Teuchter's behalf.
                                    [Posthumously, of course,
                                     too much of the real Gael,
                                     'Garb of old Gaul' and all,
                                      being, by then,
                                      a Bad Thing.]
Woe woven into spun stuff
by a pair of alleged Poles.
Peden never foresaw this shroud, for sure.

Papist eyes tend to look away,
in frustration, perhaps, in fear.
And Bishops sneer
from Episcopal heights.

But this People
died for Scotland's Kirk
not a King.
And that, here, in itself,
is a remarkable thing.

(c) Zack Wilson, 2013

Zack Wilson is the author of 'Stumbles and Half Slips' from Epic Rites Press. Also available from

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