© Noel Harrower 2015
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                        In an earlier article, I told of the origins of my own family name, Harrower, which has strong Fife connections. For centuries Harrowers farmed at Tilliecoultrie, Alloa, Clackmannan, Saline, Carnock, Torryburn and my own ancestral parish Culross. One of the most interesting of the elders was John Harrower, the covenanter. According to “The History of Inverkeithing and Rosyth”, John came from Dalgetty and was employed as a “servitor to Alexander Spittal of Leuchar.” In 1678, he and several others were arraigned before the Privy Council, and charged with being unlicensed preachers, “having received clerical status at the hands of Presbyterian ministers who had been driven from their charges for acts of unconformity….Since 1674 (Harrower) did take it upon him to preach and discharge other offices of the ministry at meetings kept by him in houses and fields in and near the towns of Leith, Restalrig, Culross, Dunfermline, Northferry…where there were multitudes of people. (He) later intruded into churches and baptised and married several persons, and being apprehended by the Council’s warrant and several letters and papers inviting him to preach being found upon him, he owned the same and declared that he had preached at several places, although he said he was never lawfully ordained, and was laureated in 1660 by Ludovick Weymes at St. Andrews, when he took the Covenant, and about three years ago he passed his trials before several ousted ministers, who gave him licence to preach, but their names he refused to reveal……The Lords, in regard to his confession and refusal to declare concerning persons present in his conventicles, do in terms of the Act of Parliament, banish him to the plantations, and order him to continue in prison till opportunity afford for his transportation.” The fact that he refused to disclose the names of others is an indication of his bravery. John Erskine of Carnock refers in his Journal to hangings he witnessed, and reports the use of the thumbscrew and “the boots” to extract names and other information. On 12th of December, 1678, a warrant was issued to the Earl of Linlithgow “ to order a party of His Majesty’s guards” to convey John Harrower and forty six others imprisoned in the Edinburgh Tolbooth to Edward Johnstone, master of the good ship St. Michael of Scarborough at the pier of Leith. When the ship arrived in London, John Wodrow, a writer on the covenanters, recorded that there was no further transport immediately available, and the prisoners were kept on board, whilst the authorities tried to book passages for them. Several of the prisoners managed to escape at this time. It is clear that John Harrower was one of the lucky ones. Four years later his name crops up again in Scotland. The Privy Council reported that the Earl of Tweedale was arraigned before them for allowing conventicles to be held in his great “teind barn” at Inverkeithing. Amongst the preachers listed was John Harrower. Clearly, he was undaunted and continued in what he regarded as the Lord’s work.  The reference to Tweedale is interesting as, thirty years later, in the Register of Testaments, one is listed for a George Harrower, servitor to the Marquis of Tweedale. His will reveals that he came from Mastertoun, a farmstead between Dunfermline and Dalgetty. Might this have been a son of John’s, possibly a tutor to the Earl’s heir? In July 1682 there is yet another Privy council recording that John Harrower was preaching illegally in in Kirkcaldie. It is possible that there was more than one man of this name, but if so, they must surely have been related. There are two Harrowers referred to in the diary kept by the twenty three year old John Erskine of Carnock,  (published by the Scottish History Society.)  The first one is about a certain William Harrower, “10th  October, 1884, People’s malice was now come to a great height against a small handful that went not to church, so as Will Harrower in Torryburn, his near neighbours said he would be permitted to stay amongst them till he burnt the town, and said hanging was too little for him; though he was but a private and a peaceable man with his neighbours, yet they could hardly endure to see him, because he went not their length in rioting and sin.” The second reference comes in1685, when Erskine, a young man of twenty three was about to join with the Duke of Argyle’s rebellion on behalf of the Prince of Orange. He had sailed to Holland, where he met up with other covenanting Scots at James Bruce’s coffee house. On Sunday, 19th of April, he attended service at the Scots Kirk in Rotterdam, and wrote “This day the sacrament was given to me, and I, considering what I might be called upon to do shortly, and not knowing if I might again have the blessed opportunity to meet with Christ that I might now entirely give up my heart and all I have to him…I was partaker of that Holy Communion and nearness between God and me – Mr. John Harrower being the administrator of it to me.” Erskine landed on the west coast of Scotland, but the Argyll rebellion was a miserable failure and he had to flee for his life, hiding in barns in various parts of Fife, whilst soldiers sought him. In later years, after the Prince of Orange had become King William the Fourth and the union of Scotland and England was established, John Erskine of Carnock came into his family estates at Torryburn and Culross.  Looking through the papers, we find that many of his tenant farmers, bore the surname Harrower. Was this just a coincidence, I wonder, or were some of these people children of the old covenanting families, with whom he had identified in his youth? I like to think so. Perhaps one of your readers can add further information on some of the incidents described here and some of the people involved.                                                                                Noel Harrower N.B. In particular, I would like to know more about Alexander Spittle of Leuchar, Ludovick Weymes, the Earl and Marquis of Tweedale of this period, and any information about Harrowers in the parishes mentioned.
JOHN HARROWER, THE COVENANTER .
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