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Covenanters' Flags, Scotland

Last modified: 2009-12-26 by rob raeside
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Drumclog flag(s)

I have been reading 'Chartism - a New History' by Malcolm Chase (ISBN 978-0-7190-6087-8) and on the first page of chapter one it describes the (first?) Chartist procession in Scotland on the 21st May 1838 from Glasgow Green to Parkhead and back, welcoming the delegation from the Birmingham Political Union with over 300 banners. Amongst these was a tattered flag carried by marchers from Strathaven, a relic of the Battle of Drumclog of 1679 when rebellious Covenanters had rescued prisoners from government cavalry. Then they had forcibly opposed the imposition of Crown control over the Church of Scotland, and in 1838 they were opposing another oppressive government that was imposing, amongst other things, the Union Workhouses, otherwise dubbed 'The Bastilles'. The people who displayed this flag were not aristocrats or a religious organisation but the Strathaven Weavers' Friendly Society, the very sort of workers who were being driven into the new workhouses by the industrial revolution.

So I got out my Google and started to look for this flag and found this image of a bluish flag with white patches crossed with a dirty white saltire which divides the words reading from the top Covenants./For.Religion/King./And.Kingdomes, there being five red roses arranged over the centre of the saltire. Now I'm looking at it again its calligraphy doesn't look to me to be 17th century:  This is apparently supposed to be a reproduction of the Drumclog Flag painted on the east wall of the Drumclog Memorial Kirk which was erected in 1912 to commemorate the battle of 1679 after the congregation of Strathaven decided that it was large enough to warrant creating another church for the convenience of people in Drumclog. The church also has a stained glass window depicting ' the Covenanters' army standard ' (but I do not know if this is exactly the same thing). Nearby there was already a monumental pillar erected at High Drumclog erected in 1839 - so clearly this particular piece of history would have been being popularised at the time of the birth of Chartism (in fact the Church of Scotland suffered a severe schism in 1843 when half the laity walked out to found the Free Church in protest against the ('English') government interfering in their church).

Now to further research this I dug out my NLW card to use ATHENS to enter Scran where I was getting Google hits for 'Drumclog flag' and it has an entirely different flag:, which it names as the 'Avondale Covenanters' Flag' - but which is labeled in the cabinet 'AT DRUMCLOG, AVENDALE 1st June 1679 In the Cause of Civil and Religious Liberty'. The text that cannot be seen without logging in says -

"Woven from cream silk, this flag originally measured about two yards (1.8m.) square. Although only just over half of the original flag remains, we have an idea of what it might have looked like from this Nineteenth Century description: "On the right is a portion of the Bible, and a quotation from the xxxiii chapter of Ezekiel, which cannot now be deciphered. Beneath is a sketch of the Scotch thistle, and in the centre are these words: FOR RELIGION, COVENANT, KING AND COUNTRY" (Mary Gebbie - 'Sketches of Strathaven and Avondale')".

The flag is believed to have been carried at the Battle of Drumclog, where 150 government troops, led by Captain John Graham of Claverhouse (later Viscount Dundee), were defeated by Covenanters. Claverhouse led his men directly at the Covenanters across a marsh. The heavily laden horses and riders became stuck in the boggy ground, where they were ferociously attacked and out-manoeuvred by the more mobile Covenanters. Claverhouse's men then fled back down Avondale towards Strathaven.

The flag can be seen at John Hastie Museum in Strathaven. A smaller fragment of an Avondale banner is also displayed there, along with a sword retrieved from the battlefield at Drumclog shortly after the battle."

The Avondale flag is here - - and is described as "This small flag is in fragmentary condition and was conserved in 1992-3. The word Avondale is split between the two sides, with AVON on one side and DALE on the other. The flag is now on display at John Hastie Museum in Strathaven."

So there appear to be three flags associated with Drumclog, maybe four if there is another one in the stained glass window?

David B. Lawrence, 17 August 2009


I came across this document ( which contains a further clue about the identity of the Drumclog flag on the second page:

"...Avendale Covenanters' flag carried at the battle of Drumclog, lent by Weavers' Society of Strathaven, per Dr. Allan Watt" which was lent for exhibition on the occasion of the union of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches of Scotland to become the United Free Church of Scotland in 1900. Taking Scran's label to be correct, this implies the large white flag with the Scottish flag in the canton labeled Avondale Covenanters Flag (and not the flag painted on the wall at Drumclog?) was carried in the Chartist in 1838. So is it wrong to have discussed the Drumclog Flag-s in the first place? Well also included in this list of objects exhibited are:

"...Covenanters' flag, for the parish of Fenwick. At the top, on the left, is an open Bible marked 'The Word of God,' while on the right is a crown surmounting a thistle. Banner of blue silk, bearing the Scottish thistle crowned, the arms of the City of Edinburgh, and the words 'God bless his Highness the Prince of Orange,' &c., used at the Revolution, 1688-9, lent by Miss Wood, Edinburgh....Flag carried at the battle of Drumclog by William Woodburn, lent by J. Clelland, Darvel, per Rev. Mr. Bonellie....Blue flag carried by the Lesmahagow contingent at the battle of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge, lent by Mrs. Napier, Lethame. Banner which was raised over the tent for Gaelic services at Canonmills at the Disruption, 1843, used also during the General Assembly at Canonmills, 1844-5, lent by Free Church College, Aberdeen....Christian Endeavour Union banner, modern Covenanting banner, lent by Rev. John Pollock, Oxford Drive, Glasgow..." ( and it includes a number of swords that were relics of the Covenanters' battle ).

Mark Thompson responded to my inquiry, "I've long hoped that the various museums in Scotland might collate all of the surviving Covenanter banners and put them all on display in one location. The best collection I've stumbled upon is at Greyfriars in Edinburgh - it's on my blog too: So clearly there is a whole group of Covenanters' flags here that I wasn't aware of.
David B Lawrence, 20 August 2009


William Cleland's "Bloody Banner"

I was looking at and The describe William Cleland's "Bloody Banner":

Another flag or rather banner from the Battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge in 1679, this is now an item in the Cameronians Museum and is a rectangle of blue silk with three lines of lettering on it. To quote Mark Thompson's blog:

  1. At the top in gold Hebrew script it reads "Jehovah Nissi" which translates as "The Lord is My Banner" - a quote from Exodus 17 v 15, where during a great battle that the Israelites were fighting against the Amalekites, they were assured of the victory as long as Moses held his arms aloft. As he grew tired, his brother Aaron and Caleb's son Hur held his arms up for him. After the victory, Moses built an altar and called it "Jehovah Nissi".
  2. In the middle it says "For Christ and His Truths" in large white letters.
  3. At the bottom in red type it says "No Quarters for Ye Active Enemies of Ye Covenant"
There is a fair number of short biographies of Cleland available on the internet but none of them that I have looked at discuss this flag. He was perhaps only seventeen at the time of the Battle of Drumclog and yet some credit him with the manoeuvre that delivered victory to only a small number of lightly armed Covenanters and so he was consequently made a captain at the following Battle of Bothwell Bridge. After returning from exile with William of Orange he was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the Cameronian Regiment and was in command when killed at the Battle of Dunkeld 1689 whilst defeating the Jacobites. He was also a minor poet.
   The banner probably was not displayed after Cleland went into exile since the story is that he gave it and his sword into the hands of his friend Henry Hall of Haughhead for safe keeping and these items were passed down through several generations until they were in the hands of the Raeburn family of East Lothian who showed them to a Mr James Drummond around 1850, and then eventually the flag was acquired by the Cameronians ( Scottish Rifles ) Regiment.

David B. Lawrence, 18 August 2009