The Old Covenanter and His Dream

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James Howie was not a native of Lochgoin…

He belonged to the Mearns branch of the family, but he was married to Isobel, eldest daughter of John Howie. James and his wife had decided to reside with her father at Lochgoin, and there care for him. The old man, who was infirm, and much afflicted with asthma, had a dream one night that was of a rather striking nature.

After the disaster at Pentland, a number of those concerned and defeated in that rising, found refuge in the wilds in the vicinity of Lochgoin, and the residence of the Howie’s became in a manner their headquarters. It was a place in the lonely waste to which they resorted for prayer and social intercourse, and the humble roof often sheltered many a hungry and weary wanderer.

One night, when a number of refugees met in his house, the aged man dreamed that he was at the Cross of Kilmarnock, and distinctly heard General Dalziel give orders to a party of his dragoons to repair to Lochgoin, the same of which, as it was situated in the heart of the moors, was by no means easy of access, especially to horsemen.

When the party had advanced about two miles on their way, he imagined that one of the soldiers used him rudely, on which he awoke and found it was a dream. In a little while he fell asleep again, and dreamed that he met with the troopers a second time, whom he accompanied on their march till they came to a stream which they had to pass, when one of the sturdy dragoons seized him by the shoulders, and pushed him forcibly into the river till it reached his knees, and the sudden chill of the cold water broke his slumbers, and he began to be a little thoughtful.

He fell asleep for the third time, and once more met with the soldiers, and went along with them until they came to the bottom of the rising ground on which his dwelling stood, when, being maltreated by them as formerly, he started from his bed, and cried to the persons in concealment to look out on the moor and see if danger was approaching. One of the company ran to the little turfy eminence that was reared a few yards from the house for the purpose of observation “and which stands to this day” and saw, to his astonishment, in the grey of the morning, the muskets and points of the bayonets of a party of military just at hand. He hastened back to make the announcement, and the company within instantly made their escape, and hid themselves in the hollow of a brook behind a moss, which afforded them a retreat from the vigilance of their enemies.

The worthy old man, whose dream was the means of saving tho fugitives, hastily left his bed, and wrapping his cloak about him, went out and stationed himself at the end of the house. When the party advanced, John was leaning against the wall, in asthma, wheezing for breath.

The troopers, astonished at seeing the worthy in this position at so early an hour, cried out, taking the Divine name in vain in a profane manner, ” –What have we here?” “It is e’en an aged man,” said John, “infirmed and breathless, who is under the necessity, at this unseasonable hour, to seek relief in the open air. The smoke of the fire, which, on account of the cold, he is obliged to keep burning in the hearth, is like to stifle him by reason of this cough.” This statement seemed to the dragoons to account naturally enough for the existence of the fire which they found blazing within, and lulled their suspicions of its having been kept burning for the accommodation of the party who had just fled from the apartment. The soldiers, when they had searched the dwelling and found nobody, entertained themselves with what provisions they could find, and, in the early morning, returned to Kilmarnock.

Thus the dream of the good old man, however it may be accounted for, was the means employed by Providence for the saving a handful of helpless men, who, in the time of their trial, sought refuge under his hospitable roof.

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Written by William Addison

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