Story of one of the Wigtown martyrs of the Covenanting days in
from a pamphlet entitled "She Was Only 22" by James Alexander Stewart, about the life of Helen Ewan.
Margaret was seventeen when she laid down her life for Christ on the 11th day of May, 1685, in Wigtown, not very far from the little town of
where Samuel Rutherford spent the early years of his ministry. She was the
daughter of Gilbert Wilson, a farmer in Glenvernock. The Wilson family unitedly carried on a guerilla
warfare constantly against the enemies of the Gospel of their time. They hid
and cared for the Covenanting preachers and sought every opportunity to magnify
In February of 1685, Margaret ventured to creep forth from her hiding place and steal down to her home because of hunger and cold. She was soon discovered by the enemy and locked up in prison-in the “Thieves’ Hole” where the worst malefactors were her associates. For six or seven weeks she lay in this dismal place. Then she was taken out and placed in another prison where constantly, day and night, she was asked to deny her faith. She steadfastly refused.
An elderly widow, Margaret Lachlison, and she, along with Margaret’s young sister Agnes, aged thirteen, were sentenced to be “flogged through the streets of Wigtown by the public hangman, and thereafter be put for three days in the jougs.” Gilbert Wilson paid the sum of one hundred pounds sterling for the release of Agnes, who was then absolved of her dreadful sentence. But Margaret was old enough to know her own mind and would stand or fall according to her own decision.
The townsfolk were all afoot on that fateful day of
May 11th, 1685.
Until now, the enemies of the Gospel in Scotland had been put to death by
burning at the stake. Now, for the first time, they planned to use water. This
was to frighten the prisoners and deter the people from taking like stands for
the hated truth.
There was near the town of
Wigtown a little stream called Bladnoch. The
course of this stream has long been changed, but in the year 1685 the channel
it had cut for itself was close beside the foot of the hill on which Wigtown
stands, and the coasting sloops could sail almost to the place where the church
and the graveyard were—and are today. At low water, the Solway recedes for
miles, and it is over the naked sands that the Bladnoch trickles to its goal.
But when the tide returns, it rushes rapidly up the river’s path and by and by
overflows the banks on both sides.
That dreadful morning, two stakes had been driven in the sands within the channel of the stream while the tide was out; one farther up than the other, but both comparatively near the town. To the stake farther out they fastened Margaret Lachlison, the widow, seeking to intimidate the younger girl who was tied to the stake near the shore. The tide was as yet far out. The people stood waiting, prepared to rescue the two women at the first sign of their relenting.
Then the tide came rushing in. The people retreated up the banks for safety. The water was already lapping about the face of Margaret Lachlison, who was struggling silently. “What think ye of your companion now?” cried some brutal official to Margaret Wilson, who felt the cold waves about her waist.
“What do I see but Christ wrestling out yonder? Think ye that we are the sufferers? No! It is Christ in us.”
Then the girl sang part of the twenty-fifth Psalm, and opening her Bible, read the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. We can imagine with what pathos she read the closing words of that chapter:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Finally, she prayed. The water began to lap over her face. Her tormentors began to plead for her to recant. The following dialogue took place:
“Margaret, ye are young. If ye’ll pray for the king, we will give you your life.”
“I’ll pray for salvation to all, but damnation to none,” she replied.
They dashed her under the water and pulled her up again. People looked on and said, “Oh, Margaret, will ye say it?”
“Lord, give him repentance and forgiveness in salvation,” she prayed.
“We do not want your prayers,” cried the enemy cursing her bitterly. “Just take the oath.”
“No sinful oath for me,” she answered.
When Margaret was released for that moment to swear the oath, the heartbroken people cried out to Major Wiram, “She has said it! She has said it!”
But to Major Wiram the brave girl gave a flat refusal.
“I will not. I am one of Christ’s children.”
They placed her on the stake again and the waters of the Solway rolled over her head. Margaret was instantly in the presence of her Lord.