The Douglas Archives

A collection of historical and genalogical records

James Gavin was a prominent Covenanter in contrast to the Douglas family who were prominent Episcopalian. In fact the church of Scotland sent several sharp reminders to the Douglases that they were to cease their adherence to Episcopalianism. However James 2nd Marquis of Douglas got round this problem by promoting tolerance both to Episcopalians and Presbyterians in the 1660's. This happy accommodation did not last.

James Gavin fled the Dragoons and hid in a small cave to the West of the village of Douglas, Lanarkshire. Unfortunately when Claverhouse's troops were passing, Gavin's dog barked thus betraying him.

For his adherence to the covenanting cause, Gavin's ears were cut off with the shears he used as a tailor. He was then dispatched to work on the sugar plantations in Barbados. In 1688 after the accession of William III, he was allowed to come home and the story has it that he put up this stone to mark what had happened. The house where he stayed is now demolished and replaced by a memorial cairn.

The plaque explains: ON THIS SITE DWELT JAMES GAVIN TAILOR A HERO OF THE COVENANT. HE INCURRED THE SPECIAL ENIMITY OF CLAVERHOUSE WHO WANTONLY SEVERED THE EARS FROM HIS HEAD WITH GAVIN’S OWN SHEARS ABOUT THE YEAR 1684. TO COMMEMORATE AND PERPETUATE THE BRUTAL OUTRAGE GAVIN CARVED THE STONE, WHICH IS SET INTO THIS CAIRN, AND PUT IT ABOVE THE DOOR OF THE HOUSE ERECTED BY HIM ON THIS SITE YEARS AFTER HIS RETURN FROM BANISHMENT IN THE ISLAND OF BARBADOES. BY GIFTS OF LAND FROM WILLIAM WOOD, ESQ. DOUGLAS AND JOHN MAXWELL, ESQ. CLYDEBANK, THIS MEMORIAL GARDEN HAS BEEN LAID OUT BY THE DISTRICT COUNCIL TO PERPETUATE THE MEMORY OF JAMES GAVIN.

The lintel stone was at the top of the doorway to their house.  It’s a marriage lintel which James carved for Helen Dickson for their wedding - and the shears of his profession.

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