One of my most vivid memories of the year my family spent in Scotland happened soon after we moved there. We were progressively touring the town of Edinburgh and had already visited The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, the home of John Knox and many of the other prominent locations. Eventually we made our way to Greyfriars, the church where many of the Scottish Covenanters were buried after being killed (and often first being mericlessly tortured) for their faith. We were astonished and not a little upset to find that the main attraction of the cemetary at Greyfriars is not the graves of those who were martyred, but a monument to a little terrier who sat faithfully at his master’s grave for many years after his death.
In retrospect it seems almost fitting for the Covenanters, who have largely been overlooked in history, to be overlooked where their bodies now lay.
The Covenanters were a group of Presbyterians from 17th-century Scotland, considered radical today, who covenanted with God for the good of the people of their nation. They were persecuted by the English and hunted down all across the nation. A great many of them paid with their lives. Wikipedia says the following of the Covenanters: “Gathering around them many of the Covenanters who clung tenaciously to their standards of faith, these ministers began to preach in the fields, and a period of persecution marked by savage hatred and great brutality began. Further oppressive measures were directed against the Covenanters, who took up arms about 1665, and the struggle soon assumed the proportions of a rebellion. The forces of the crown under John Graham of Claverhouse and others were sent against them, and although the insurgents gained isolated successes, in general they were worsted and were treated with great barbarity. This period of repression was remembered in folk memory as “the Killing Time”. They maintained, however, their cherished covenants with a zeal which persecution only intensified; in 1680 the more tenacious members of the party signed a document known as the “Sanquhar Declaration,” and were afterwards called Cameronians from the name of their leader, Richard Cameron. They renounced their allegiance to King James and were greatly disappointed when their standards found no place in the religious settlement of 1689, continuing to hold the belief that the Solemn League and Covenant should be made obligatory upon the entire nation. The Covenanters have a martyrology of their own, and the halo of romance has been cast around their exploits and their sufferings. Their story, however, especially during the time of their political predominance, is part of the general History of Scotland.”
The Scottish Covenanters is an hour-long DVD that examines these people and the conflict they faced. It introduces many of the most important Covenanters and the men who persecuted them. It describes the faith and the covenants for which so many were willing to die and examines the impact of this movement in Scottish history. It is quite a good little presentation – well made and filled with historical facts and visits to the important historic locations. It is certainly educational and well worth watching. I recommend it.
The Scottish Covenanters is available from Vision Video or from Amazon.