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Drowned They Still Speak


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 Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” —Romans 8:35-39

Have you ever wondered about what your Christian witness and influence might be to individuals as well as your local community or country? The story of the two Margarets is a good example of what a Christian witness can accomplish.

Scottish Conformists Gilbert Wilson (a farmer near Wigtown, Scotland) and his wife had three children, Margaret 18, Thomas 16, and Agnes 13. The children became Covenanters (Scottish Presbyterians resisting English Episcopalian control), and Gilbert was fined for his children’s nonconformity, so the children ran to the hills. Thomas disappeared, and many historians have said he was never heard from again. After several weeks, the two fugitive sisters crept into Wigtown seeking food and shelter from Margaret McLachlan, a 63-year-old widow. All three were thrown into jail (Margaret McLachlan was reading her Bible when arrested) and ordered to swear an oath of allegiance to the King’s authority over the Church of England. They refused and were brought to trial on April 13, 1685 where the sentence was  “…ty’d to palisados fixed in the sand, within the flood mark, and there to stand till the flood overflowed them and drowned them.”

Gilbert eventually posted a £100 bond, almost a lifetime’s earnings, but it was only enough to secure one of his daughters. He chose Agnes. Both Margarets remained in prison.

On May 11, 1685 the two women were brought from Wigtown, followed by a crowd of onlookers, and led to the Solway Firth (bay). The ploy was to put the old woman further out, where she would drown first in hopes of terrifying the teenager. As the morning tide came in, faster than a running horse, Mrs. McLachlan—just like her Savior—spoke not a word. As the cold water swirled around her, one of her tormentors shouted: “It is needless to speak to that d*** old b****; let her go to h***.”

The teenager had been chained closer to shore and forced to watch. Someone asked her what she thought of her struggling friend. She answered, “What do I see but Christ wrestling there. Do you think that we are the sufferers? No, it is Christ in us.”

Soon after, as the water approached the teenager, she sang the 25th Psalm and then recited Romans 8. Then, while praying, the water covered her. However, the officer pulled up her head till she was able to speak, and he asked if she would pray for the king. She answered, “God save him, if he will, for it is his salvation I desire.” The officer again asked her to renounce her faith, but her last words were, “I will not; I am one of Christ’s children; let me go.” Soon, the waves overwhelmed her.

Five were martyred that day, the two Margarets and three men who were hung. All are buried in the kirkyard of Wigtown. A small stone pillar stands as a memorial very near where Margaret Wilson was tied although the flood plain is now a salt marsh. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Scotland, be sure to stop at Wigtown and remember these martyrs, and especially Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLachlan, who by their testimony ended the killing of non-conformists in Scotland. Upon hearing the story of the Margarets, the people of Scotland put an end to persecution. Today, the people of Scotland are very accommodating of others’ religious and political views. This is in sharp contrast to 50 miles west in Ireland where murder and strife have never really stopped where and religious “wars” continue to this very day.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27 [Easy to Read Version]


Dennis Hollingsead works in the Office of Development at Andrews University. A shorter version of this story first appeared in the Pioneer Memorial Church bulletin on May 11, 2013 (328 years to the day of the two Margarets' execution). It is reprinted here with permission from the author.

Image Credit: / Kristy McCaskill


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