During the “killing time,” there were so many executions in some parts of Scotland, as to make them common…
So convinced were all classes of the innocence and moral worth of those “who suffered, that no executioner in Ayershire could be prevailed upon to carry the sentence into effect. At last one of the prisoners, who was bribed and dragged into service, executed his companions, but soon afterwards died; himself in despair.
In Irvine, the hangman, a poor simple Highlander, named William Sutherland, peremptorily refused to execute the good men merely for opposing the bishops, whom he said “he had never liked since he knew how to read his Bible.” Solicitations, promises, and threats, were all used with him, but in vain. They threatened him with “the boots.” You may bring your boots and the spurs too,” said William, “you shall not prevail.” They swore they would pour melted lead on him –they would roll him in a barrel full of spikes; but the Highlander stood firm.
They then put him in the stocks, and the soldiers having charged their pieces, and blind-folding him, rushed upon him with fearful shouts and imprecations; but all in vain. Confounded at his fortitude, they declared “that the devil was surely in him.” ” If the devil be in me,” said William, ” he is an unnatural devil, for if he were like the rest, he would bid me take as many lives as I could; but the Spirit that is in me will not suffer me to take good men’s lives.” “Tell me,” said one of the judges, “who put these words into your mouth?” “Even He who made Balaam’s ass to speak and reprove the madness of the prophet,” replied William. At length, finding that they could make nothing more of him, they allowed him to escape.
Taken from, The Religious Anecdotes of Scotland