Within the grounds of Stirling Old Town Cemetery stands the Martyrs Monument. Its an impressive glass dome with two girls sitting inside, one reading the bible and the other listening, with an angel watching over them. At the girl’s feet is a lamb.
The monument was erected in 1859 without its glass cover, which was subsequently added in 1867. As eye catching as the Martyrs Monument is, this particular statue is not in honour of any Stirling citizens. The Martyrs Monument was built to commemorate two girls from Wigtonshire, Margaret and Agnes Wilson.
Margaret and Agnes were 18 and 13, or there about, and followers of the Covenanters who had strong Presbyterian beliefs. These beliefs went against the tough Anglican reforms at the time which were led by Charles II. These Anglican reforms forced people to pledge allegiance with the King and his beliefs instead of God or be found guilty of treason. The period, from 1679-1688, was a brutal time in Scotland and is called The Killing Time.
The two girls, along with an elderly neighbour, Margaret McLauchlan who was thought to be around sixty, were arrested for their beliefs and found guilty of high treason. All three of them were sentenced to death by drowning. The girl’s father Gilbert Wilson, was able to buy the freedom of Agnes. Margaret McLauchlan and Margaret Wilson were taken to a point below the high tide mark on the Solway Firth, tied to stakes and left to drown.
It is said that Margaret McLauchlan was too weak to withstand the force of the water for long and died fairly quickly. Margaret Wilson, however was offered freedom but she refused to relinquish her beliefs and perished on May 11th 1685.
William Drummond paid for this statue to be erected in the girls honour. Drummond was a successful landowner, seed merchant and farmer within Stirling. He was also a Presbyterian. This monument was erected to always remember the sisters and Presbyterian plight.
I personally can’t get enough of the Martyrs Monument. I have never seen another statue like it. It is truly striking and makes Stirling Old Town Cemetery unique in appearance. It always reminds me of an old fashioned music box. With this aside, Scotland is no stranger to constant political and religious reform over the centuries. The tale of the Wilson sisters and Margaret McLauchlan is indicative of attitudes of the time, where drowning a young and an elderly woman was seen as acceptable. By erecting the Martyrs Monument, William Drummond achieved his goal because here I am in 2022 writing about it.
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