Dangers of history
This is is from a talk given by Ian Paisley at Wigtown Book Festival earlier in 2007 - in which he re-asserted the reality of the Wigtown martyrs' deaths. See
http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~dfsgal/Wigtown/mrtyrs-04.htm for more
It wasn't quite fire and brimstone, but Dr Ian Paisley's first visit to Wigtown in 22 years still got a few sparks flying. Around 300 packed into the Wigtown Book Festival marquee in the town square to hear Northern Ireland's First Minister give a sermon from the gospel according to Paisley.
For that's exactly what the audience got for the first half hour of a revealing lecture, wherein he railed at those who purveyed the view that the Wigtown martyrs' executions were a myth - and praised Sinn Fein for keeping their part of the bargain to ensure devolved government returned to Northern Ireland.
Dr Paisley set Margaret McLauchlan and Margaret Wilson ,and the covenanting movement in general on a pedestal, claiming their sufferings in the late 17th century ensured the freedoms Scotland and Northern Ireland enjoy today.
As 'Bloody Claverhouse' got his come-uppance for murder and rapine in the name of King Charles', it was obvious that for Dr Paisley his visit to Wigtown was more than another diary date.
For the die-hard unionist, grizzled politician and peacemaker at last, this was a pilgrimage to a place which, through the graves of two women in Wigtown's old kirkyard, was akin to a shrine.
Peculiarly for a man renowned for austere Presbyterianism, Dr Paisley eulogized the martyrs with such reverence it made one feel had the two Margarets been members of the old Scottish church, sainthoods would have been in order.
In hushed tones he took his audience through the women's grisly but courageous deaths at the stake. He could have been speaking of Joan of Arc, the only difference being that for France's saviour fire was the tool of death, not water.
Denigrating the martyrs' executioners, he said: "Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLauchlan have obtained in our time and in the time of our fathers a celebrity such as their accusers, their judges, their persecutors and their cruel murderers never dreamed of.
"Bloody Claverhouse was more than bloody, he was baptised by hell itself - he was an Iscariot. I believe that the blood of the martyrs is the seed that has brought a blessing to my country and to yours."
He laid into Sheriff Napier's work for casting doubt on the martyrs episode, the author "who had written this book to try to cover up the bloody deeds of Bluidy Claverhouse and his friends" and challenged his listeners to remember the two Margarets' sacrifice.
"Ulster, the Province that I love and you in Scotland owe our freedom to these women and others who fought the battle in their day and who refused to bow the knee to false religion, and were determined to do as God would have them do," he said.
That rather one-sided interpretation of Scotland's less than happy state in the late 17th century was not universally shared by his audience.
To applause, one elderly lady reminded Dr Paisley that the same narrow-minded Presbyterian church government was responsible, either directly or indirectly for the massacre of Glencoe, the burning of thousands of innocent women at the stake as 'witches' and the enslavement of thousands in the plantations.
"It would be unfortunate if we just took one story, and not all the stories from that time," she said.
The full article contains 1197 words and appears in the Galloway Gazette newspaper. Last Updated: 05 October 2007 10:53 AM Page 1 of 1