Scotland has seen its fair share of battles and conflicts. Besides internal struggles between various clans fighting for dominance, the nation has defended its borders from invaders including Vikings and the Picts, not to mention their neighbors to the south, the English.
Perhaps there is no finer example of man’s cruelty to man than a period that was known as the “Killing Time.” During a troubling few decades in the 1600s, the country was split into two warring factions. The friction was between the ruling classes of King Charles II and James VII against the Presbyterian Covenanters. Basically, this was a religious campaign, a struggle for who had the authority to govern religion, God versus King.
Everyday citizens were caught up in the crossfire and asked to pledge their allegiance to either the Church or to the ruling monarch. If a person chose the former, they could forfeit their land as well as their lives. This is where a teenager by the name of Margaret Wilson, along with her younger sister Agnes and another victim Margaret McLachlan tragically enter the history books.
Known as the Two Margarets, or the Wigtown Martyrs, these women were taken prisoner while attempting to attend an illegal religious service being held in the coastal community of Wigtown. They were asked to drink to the health of the King, which they refused. Though Agnes would eventually be given clemency, the other two were not as fortunate.
On May 11, 1685, the two women were led out onto the salty marshes and tied to a stake, where they eventually drowned in the encroaching tide. Their bodies would be buried in the local parish church. This despicable act of cruelty against these individuals would allow them to be portrayed as persecuted victims. A monument stands to them in Stirling’s Old Town Cemetery.
Know Before You Go
Both the Martyr's Graves and the Martyr's Stake are within a few minutes walk from the center of Wigtown. There are signs posted leading to you to both locales.
The Marty's Graves are located to the left of the Old Church. Look for two white headstones that are surrounded by a metal enclosure. There is a information placard attached to this railing.
To find the Martyr's Stake, head south from the Old Church, down a narrow paved street, you'll come upon a dirt parking lot to your right. Here you will see a trail that will lead you along a small walking path. Within a few minutes you'll come across an information pillar. Here you will see a wooden walkway that will lead you to the stake. The slates are uneven, some are loose, but you needn't worry about the tide coming in.