Owing to the incessant harassments to which this good man was subjected…
…and the uncertainty of a single night’s security in his own house, he was obliged to seek a hiding place in the fields, he found a cave in a retired spot, within his own lands, in which he secreted himself in time of danger.
The enemy knew that he had a retreat somewhere in the vicinity, and were desirous of finding it. Its discovery, however, was not so easily accomplished, and therefore they had recourse to deception in order to gain their object. They engaged a spy to watch the movements of the household, and to notice if any person carried food in the evening dusk, or in the early morning, to any solitary place among the woods or glens in the neighborhood. This scheme was successful, and the individual to whom the business was entrusted, followed stealthily in the steps of a person belonging to the family, who seemed, in as guarded a manner as possible, to be conveying provisions to Mr. Bell in his cave. The informer, rejoicing in his success, hastened to give information, and to receive the promised reward.
Next day a company of troopers was conducted to the place, in the confident expectation of seizing on the worthy man in the secrecy of his retreat. It happened, however, that on their approach Mr. Bell was not in the cave, but in a field adjoining, and from the place where he stood he observed the horsemen rapidly advancing. He instantly removed himself from the spot and fled. He was seen by the soldiers, and a vigorous pursuit commenced. He ascended a hill in the neighborhood, in the direction of a field of moss, in which a number of people were digging peats. When the workers saw Mr. Bell hastening at his utmost speed across the moss, they soon conjectured the cause. When he approached them, one of the men, eager to save him, cried: “Make haste, Mr. Bell, throw off your coat, and take this spade and dig in the hag with me.” Mr. Bell instantly saw the propriety of the advice, and, without the hesitation of a moment, he did as he was bidden. In a brief space the dragoons appeared on the edge of the moss in hot pursuit. The laborers, aware of what was coming, were plying their work, and apparently unconscious of the presence of the soldiers.
The commander of the party, however, with a loud voice, summoned their attention, and asked if they saw a man pass that way. One of the workers answered that a short time ago they saw a man wending his way across the moor, in the direction in which they were marching. On hearing this, the soldiers continued their pursuit, and Mr. Bell was left undiscovered in the midst of the peat-makers.
This good man, however, did not always thus escape. He came to a hasty and a bloody end, by the hand of the infamous Lagg, by whose means he gained the martyr’s crown. The account of his death, and the circumstances which led to it, may here be given in the words of Wodrow: “Sir Robert Grierson of Lagg, with some of Claverhouse and Strachan’s dragoons, probably upon some information about Mr. Bell of Whiteside, came into the parish of Tongland, in the stewardship of Galloway, and there, upon the hill of Kirkconnel, surprised him, and David Halliday, portioner of Mayfield, Andrew M’Robert, James Clement, and Robert Lennox of Irelington ,and most barbarously killed them on the spot, without so much as allowing them to pray, though they earnestly desired, and, as several accounts before me bear, after they had surrendered themselves, and he had promised them quarter. And it was a frequent remark in many papers before me, that the method this bloody and unnatural man used, whenever he seized people in the fields, was immediately to dispatch them, without allowing them time to recommend themselves to the Lord. In this case, Mr. Bell, whom Lagg knew well enough, earnestly desired but a quarter of an hour to prepare for death; but the other peremptorily refused it, cursing and swearing, ‘What the devil, have you not had time enough to prepare since Bothwell?’ and so immediately shot him with the rest, and would not suffer their bodies to be buried.
A little after this barbarous murder, the Viscount of Kenmuir, Claverhouse, and Lagg, happened to meet at Kirkcudbright, where Kenmuir challenged Lagg for his cruelty to one whom he knew to be a gentleman, and so nearly related to him by blood, and particularly, that he would not allow his dead body to be buried. Lagg answered with an oath, ‘Take him if you will, and salt him in your beef-barrel.’ Whereupon the Viscount drew upon him, and would have run him through, if Claverhouse had not interposed and parted them. Dreadful were the acts of wickedness done by the soldiers at this time, and Lagg was as deep as any.”
Thus died Mr. Bell, a gentleman of great respectability “a warm-hearted patriot, and a true Christian. His death happened in February 1685″ –One of those slaughter years which have been emphatically described as the “killing time.” He is buried in the churchyard of Anwoth, and his resting place is pointed out by a stone with a suitable inscription.
Taken from, Traditions of the Covenanters
Written by Robert Simpson, Published in 1867