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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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making his escape. " Again, while Arran was Warden of the Marches, we find Sir John Douglass and his confederate Mark Kerr committed to prison, on suspicion that they had been implicated in a plot against the late warden. But he had not been long confined, for in 1528, during a five years treaty of peace with England, we find James V. complaining to his council at Edinburgh, that the border clans had resumed those habits of plunder and violence which the vigorous measures of James IV. had to a great extent repressed. He commanded the imprisonment of the Lords Bothwell, Home, and Maxwell, Scott of Buccleuch, and Kerr of Ferniehirst. It was at this period he hanged Cockburn of Henderland, Scott of Fushylaw, and sealed the fate of Johnnie Armstrong. But the fate of Kerr was not yet sealed.
In 1550, we find that the Lairds of Buccleuch and Ferniehirst, the chiefs of the powerful border clans of the Scotts and the Kerrs, summoning their retainers, made a predatory inroad into England in company with the Earl of Westmorland and committed great ravages. This expedition, it was said, appeared to be undertaken less for the sake of plunder than for the gratification of revenge and a desire to kindle war between the two countries. In 1571 we find "even municipal government of the city of Edinburgh was violently dissolved, and Kerr of Ferniehirst, by authority of the Laird of Grange, appointed provost, with a council composed of his military retainers. " That same year he is engaged with Huntly, Hamilton, Buccleuch, Spens of Wormiston, and others, to surprise the town and castle of Stirling, and seize the principal leaders of the king's party. He afterwards witnesses Morion's execution. He is next accused of the murder of Lord Russell, son of the Earl of Bedford, but this was in a border riot between Sir John Foster and others on the one hand, and Kerr of Ferniehirst and his men on the other, and happened during a regular strife for the mastery. Elizabeth of England complained in this case, but his own King James supported him.
How it came about we are not informed, but suddenly, in 1592, we learn that a brother of this same George Kerr is going full swing as Abbot of Newbattle. The Presbyterian party is at this period in the ascendancy, and this same George Kerr is engaged in a deep intrigue with the Papist against the Protestant party. The secret, however, had been whispered too soon. He was already on his way to Spain, but was pursued, laid by the heels, and speedily conveyed to prison at Edinburgh.

We are informed by Calderwood, " that this George Kerr, a Doctor of Laws, a Roman Catholic, and brother to the Abbot of Newbattle, was about to proceed to Spain on a secret mission, carrying with him important letters. The Rev. Andrew Knox, minister of Paisley, first learned the news, and lost not a moment in setting out to intercept the suspicious fugitive. Accompanied by a body of armed men, furnished by Lord Ross, they ultimately found him at Cumbrae, on board the vessel that was to convey him to Spain. On a search being made, the letters were discovered and seized. On his papers being examined, there were found letters from Jesuits and seminary priests in Scotland, together with blank sheets having at the bottom the seals and signatures of the Earls of Huntly, Errol, and Angus, the Lairds of Auchindown, Fintry, and others of the Popish faction.
" Kerr at first obstinately refused to make any disclosure, but having, by command of the King, been put to the torture he confessed the whole conspiracy. It appears the King of Spain was to land an army of thirty thousand men on the west coast of Scotland, where they were to be joined by the Roman Catholic lords with all the forces they could muster; that 15, 000 of these were to cross the border, while the remainder, with the assistance of the whole Romish faction, were to attempt the overthrow of the Protestant Church. Graham of Fintry, an accomplice of Kerr, was brought to trial and beheaded at the Market Cross of Edinburgh. Kerr also was examined at great length, but he had powerful friends, and it was said that with the connivance of the King he was allowed to escape. An attempt was made to capture him, but while the fugitive went in one direction, the pursuers were sent in another.
"This artifice was so palpable and notorious that on the following Sunday it was publicly exposed from the pulpit and stigmatised as a mockery.
" When Parliament met, it was found that, in the absence of Kerr, the principal witness, no proceedings could be taken against Huntly, Angus, and Errol, as there was not sufficient legal evidence of their guilt. The artful subterfuge under which the Popish earls had been allowed to escape excited strong indignation against the King among all ranks of his Protestant subjects. "
On the Sunday following the rising of Parliament, Mr John Davidson (latterly of Prestonpans) vehemently attacked the proceedings of the Parliament, as well as the King himself.
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