Guthrie's church, Fenwick

The parish of Fenwick was a centre of the Covenanter movement, a determined effort by the Scottish church to resist the attempts of Charles I and Archbishop Laud to impose episcopacy and the English liturgy on Scotland.

The Parish Church (KA3 6DJ), with its bell tower and unusual stepped gables, was built for William Guthrie (1620-1665) in 1643. Under his leadership, the area became a focus of Covenanter activity. In the churchyard are several graves and memorials to Fenwick Covenanters, marked with a characteristic green metal plaque. Some of them refer to an incident in 1685, when several, including one Peter Gemmell were killed by “Nisbet and his party” (for details of Covenanter memorials throughout Scotland and beyond see www.covenanter.org.uk).

Guthrie was born in Brechin in Angus to a distinguished local family.  While at Fenwick, he travelled widely to preach and sometimes found himself at the scene of military action involving the Covenanters.  He was at Dunbar when the Scottish army was defeated by Cromwell's forces. For some time he enjoyed the protection of sympathetic aristocrats, but eventually was removed from his ministry and returned to Brechin in poor health, where he died at the age of only forty-five.

William Guthrie's memorial

Not all those commemorated are necessarily buried here. One memorial is to Captain John Paton, who suffered martyrdom for his beliefs in the Grassmarket at Edinburgh in 1684. Another  remembers several Covenanters, sentenced to be transported to America, who perished when their ship foundered off the Orkneys in 1679.

Guthrie is buried at Brechin but has a prominent memorial stone here. The epitaph records that he was the author of The Christian's Great Interest.


From Fenwick, the A77 continues north towards Glasgow for a few miles, then the B764 branches towards East Kilbride.  Crossing Fenwick Moor, we can see the largest onshore windfarm in Britain, with nearly 100 turbines, and learn about renewable energy at the Whitelee Windfarm Visitor Centre. Nearby, Spine Road leads to the operations centre of the windfarm, but a single track road running parallel for about a mile ends at Lochgoin Farm (KA3 6EX).

A monument on the right commemorates John Howie (1735-1793), author of The Scots Worthies.  This was a noble effort by a relatively unlettered man to record the lives of Christian heroes from the 16th and 17th centuries in a readable, vernacular style, particularly those who had suffered during the persecution of the Covenanters.

Covenanter exhibits

It seems that the farm is still owned and operated by the Howie family and a section of the complex had been adapted as the Covenanters Museum.  Entry is free and the museum usually unattended, with visitors able to enter and browse freely.  Inside, there are display panels devoted to the lives of individual Covenanters and events in their history.  Much space is devoted to Captain John Paton, local farmer and friend of the Howie family, whose memorial at Fenwick Church is described above. Paton's sword and Bible, together with the drum of the Fenwick Covenanters and other artefacts, are displayed in a glass case.

In their conflict with the Stuart kings, the Covenanters took up arms.  Some, like Paton, had military experience in the Civil War or in Continental battles.  Despite some successes, they suffered a severe defeat at the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679.  It was Paton's role in this battle that led to his trial and execution.  He was buried at Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh.