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THE BLOOD TEST; OR , MURDER ON THE CARRICK SHORE REVEALED.
SOMETIMES I wonder how much of the coast line of this country will have nothing to tell when the sea gives up the dead that are in it, and when the last record of its history comes to be handed in. Not much. Rocks and sands and shingle, boulders grey and stony beaches, they have nearly all at one time or other been witnesses to scenes worthy the re-telling.
Against these cliffs, standing there so serenely against the western sun, has been dashed many a gallant vessel, and strong swimmers have uttered their last vain cries for help to their resounding echoes. On this promontory, all bare save for a few scant ruins, for centuries stood a massive fortress, beat upon by the free winds of heaven, and bedewed by the countless springs of the rolling years, the tides of life and of activity all the while ebbing and throbbing around it. Here, within a stone-cast of the land, a solitary swimmer gave up his life in a last effort to reach the shore. From that jutting-out rock the suicide flung himself headlong to his fate. On this sandy stretch has been cast up the body of the murdered man. On that shingle has lain the corpse of a frail sister, driven to despair and to death by unsympathetic and cold humanity. From yonder cliff the hardy fowler has fallen into the sea, and his mangled remains have bespattered these rocks with his life's blood. Within sight of this spot the toiling fisher has cast his last net, and the occupant of the pleasure-boat has succumbed to the treacherous squall that smote his craft like a bolt from the azure. In these caves over there the driven exile has hidden himself. On that sandbank the sloop has lain, while her contraband cargo was run ashore by the reckless smuggler. Here the lifeboat has been launched to battle with the breakers, and to save the lives of the seamen whose bark lay on the hidden rocks without; and there the lifeboat has been launched to battle all in vain in the riotous tempest. Here towns have stood, and generations of children have played on the sands, and that river has carried to the main many an evidence of its rushing winter torrents. Beneath the lea of that tall cliff has lain the warship of the pirate and the viking. while her crew made havoc ashore ; and on that point of land has gone down the strong ship of the invader. Aye, all along, from cliff to cliff, from bay to bay, from river's mouth to river's mouth, memorable history has been unfolding itself these two thousand years and more, and its record is somewhere.
The Carrick shore will have its own story to tell in the great day of the telling, and few of its incidents will be more notable than that which follows.
It was an autumnal afternoon in the year of grace 1607. The day was fresh, invigorating, breezy as becomes a September day. In from the Atlantic rolled the waves, the sun lighting their crests. Here they expended themselves on the sandy stretches; here they dashed their brief life out on the cliffs, and here they rattled up amid the stones and the shingle with that rhythmic cadence which is all their own. The sun was westering. He had still a long way to go. In his course he stood above Ailsa Craig, and now shining in his glory, and then his radiance hidden by the passing clouds, he lighted up the restless waters of the Firth with a succession of evanescent gleams.
Adjacent to the beach, at no great distance northward from the town of Girvan, was gathered a throng of merry-makers.
The harvest had been gathered, the work of the year in the season's staff of life was done; and hither had they come, the old and the young, to celebrate their harvest festival, and to rejoice in the fulfilment of the divine promise. The racers strained to the goal, the wrestlers strove for the mastery, the archers were at the butts, the hagbutters were at the targets, the lads and lasses danced in the ring, the revellers feasted, and drank, and sang, the children waded in the sea and dipped their white feet in the little pools among the rocks, and general merriment reigned supreme.
On the one hand lay the quiet town of Girvan, whose natives had come forth to share in the gladness ; on the other, not far northwards along the coast, stood the historic ruins of grey Turnberry, redolent with the glorious memories of the kingly Earl of Carrick.
The tide was flowing, and on the march of its waters, came a dark object. The children were the first to see it. In their young fashion they discussed it, but, being unable to fathom the nature of the curious dead thing, now in the trough of the seas, now on the crest of the waves, they drew the attention of their seniors to it, and these, with the curiosity inherent to all pleasure-seekers, collected on the beach and discussed the wonder. It was coming nearer and nearer, the play of the breakers ; and, as onward it came, it assumed the semblance of the dead body of a man. And that was what it was. Death in the midst of life.
As soon as the waves brought the corpse into comparatively shallow waters, some of the bystanders waded in and lifted it in their arms, and, amid a universal hush and reverent curiosity, they carried it to Girvan Churchyard, and laid it down upon one of those large flat tombstones that were wont to be erected to mark the last resting-place of the sleepers beneath. The body was that of a man evidently in the early prime of life. To all appearance it had been in the sea for five or six days, and it was bloated and disfigured as only the sea can disfigure the relies of humanity. Enough of the semblance of the original, however, was left to enable those who were intimate with the deceased, while he was yet alive, to identify him.
Proverbially, bad news travels fast, and that same evening, from all parts of the immediately surrounding country, came in persons to gaze upon the corpse. Among them was James Bannatyne, the farmer of Chapeldonnan. When one of his servants had told him that there bad been a dead body cast up on the beach he had become at once intensely agitated. For three or four days previous he had been observed at irregular intervals scanning the sea and the sea beach, as if in expectation of finding something. He had also been morose, fretful, and restless, and had altogether been a changed man. There was nothing known that could account for his altered demeanour. For some weeks there had been residing with him a young man, a relative of his own, William Dalrymple by name. Somewhat suddenly, nigh a week previous to the discovery of the body, he had taken his departure; but nothing was thought of the event. Dalrymple was a native of Ayr, and had friends in different parts of the shire. He had only come to Chapeldonnan farm on a visit; and, his visit being ended, he had, as Bannatyne said, left to join his friends elsewhere.
There was little known of Dalrymple's life; but what was known partook of the mysterious. Five years before the time with which we are dealing he had somewhat suddenly disappeared, and after an absence of some months he had just as suddenly reappeared, to tell that he had been sojourning in Arran, but that, growing weary of his exile from the Ayrshire coast, he had taken ship with a fisherman of Ayr, who had brought him back to his native town. He had remained at home for a few weeks, and then had again been spirited away. This time the Continent of Europe had been his destination; and there, as a trooper of the Duke of Buceleuch, he had fought in the wars of the Low Countries.
Peace concluded, he had returned again to Scotland, and, as has been said, he had been sojourning with Bannatyne of Chapeldonnan farm. less than a week preceding the September day that witnessed the recovery of the body from the Firth of Clyde of Williarn Dalrymple.
Agitated as Bannatyne was when the news was brought to him, he lost no time in repairing, to Girvan Churchyard. Ere he had reached the scene, the body had been conveyed within the walls of the church, and he had perforce to enter the sacred edifice and, in the gathering gloom of the evening to gaze upon the corpse. He was under self-restraint, but his depression was noticeable. A cold sweat broke over him as he identified the remains as those of his kinsman, and his recent guest, William Dalrymple ; but this manifestation of excitement was set down by those present to the natural grief and horror of the farmer of Chapeldonnan in thus suddenly being confronted with the corpse of a relative of whose death he was not previously aware. Having satisfied himself concerning the identity, he took his departure, with the expressed intention of returning the following clay to prepare the body for burial, and to bring with him a coffin wherein to deposit the remains of his hapless friend. And when he had taken his departure the doors of the church were closed, and the dead man was left to the silent gloom, of the sanctuary.
Early the following forenoon the minister of Girvan had two visitors, a lady and a little girl. The former announced herself as Lady Kennedy of Culzean, and expressed her desire to see the body of the drowned man. Lady Kennedy's wish was law in these parts, and without the least demur the minister accompanied her to the church. The little girl, her ladyship's grandchild, followed, and would have entered, but Lady Kennedy bid her wait at the gate of the of churchyard until she returned. The child promised to obey. The door was already open. There had been no time lost by Bannatyne in having the body dressed for the funeral, and just as the minister and his visitor entered, the remains of William Dalrymple were being laid in the coffin, in the presence of about a dozen persons whom morbid curiosity had attracted to the scene. These were standing in a semi-circle round the coffin, but when Lady Kennedy approached, they respectfully opened up to right and left to make way for her.
You said," observed Lady Kennedy, addressing the minister, that this was the body of one William Dalrymple ?
"Yes, your ladyship, so I am informed, a relation of James Bannatyne, the farmer of Chapeldonnan."
"Can you tell me aught of his disappearance?"
"Nothing save what rumour tells, Lady Kennedy. He came, a few weeks ago, unexpectedly into this district. He had, it seems, been abroad fighting in Holland, and had only just returned from that country. He left Chapeldonnan about a week ago to return to Ayr, and nothing was heard of him until his body was found floating in the sea!"
"Did anybody see him going away, when he left for Ayr?"
"None, my lady, save his kinsman, Bannatyne. He was the last to see him."
"And has he said where he bid his friend farewell?"
"Not so far as I know, Lady Kennedy. But I only know by rumour what little I do know. Has your ladyship any reason to suspect foul play in this matter? "
"I do not say what I suspect, but let us look a little more closely at the body itself. Where is the person who dressed the corpse for the funeral? "
An elderly female stepped forward, and announced that it was she who had clothed the remains in their last attire.
"Would you undo the grave clothes from his head and neck? "
The woman obeyed. With accustomed fingers she loosed the napkin that was about his head and neck, and, in response to further instructions, she raised the head and turned it round first to the right and then to the left.
"What mark is that?" said Lady Kennedy, as she pointed to a severe wound above the left ear.
"It is impossible to say now," replied the minister, "the body has been in the sea for five or six days. During that period who can tell what has befallen it? It may have been scraping along the bottom, or dashed against the rocks or it may even have been attacked by the more voracious kind of fishes."
" These are possibilities, indeed," returned Lady Kennedy, but, in connection with that wound, look also at the neck."
The minister did as he was asked, and started. Right round there was a blue mark as if originally caused by a rope tightly drawn, now swollen out and distended by the action of the waters.
"What do you make of it now, sir?"
"I confess, Lady Kennedy, that appearances are suspicious. But, if I may make bold to say such a thing, your ladyship must have had some reason to suspect that this man was foully treated ere being thrown into the water!"
"All that in good time, sir. But in the meantime you will see to it that the corpse is duly examined by the legal authorities ere permission is granted to have it interred!
" I will, my lady. I shall attend to it myself."
The examination concluded, the body was laid in the coffin in the position in which it had been lying ere Lady Kennedy entered. The neck and the head were tied up again, and the face cloth again covered the face.
While her grandmother was in the church, the little grandchild of the lady was playing around the door, but growing weary of her play she sought Lady Kennedy within the building. Opening the door, she looked around, and was not long in discovering the object of her quest. She advanced up the aisle and reached the little group surrounding the coffin just as the corpse had been laid once more to rest, and, taking her grandmother's hand she gazed in infant wonder at the white shroud and the narrow coffin. She had never seen such a thing before, and, without speaking, she, kept her eyes fixed on the habiliments of death, and wondered what it was they enrobed.
Lady Kennedy was about to hurry her away when, to her own amazement and to the horror of the bystanders, the spotless linen enswathing the neck of the dead man became dyed with blood. It seemed to flow freely, and in a few seconds the grave clothes indicated that a wound had opened and that it was bleeding profusely.
Why such a strange, such an unaccountable eruption? For five or six days the corpse had been floated in the waters of the Firth of Clyde, and necessarily the blood within its veins must long ago have become congealed. Why then, in the presence of this child, who in terror at the sight clung nervously to the hand of her grandmother, should its fountain open anew and nature seem to reverse her processes? It was an accepted article of belief in those days that heaven was wont to reveal murder, and to point to the murderers, by causing, the blood to flow from the bodies of the murdered in their presence. Neither Lady Kennedy nor the minister of Girvan doubted that this was so, and as for the rustic onlookers, they accepted the belief as the most literal of truths, and looked into one another's faces with glances that left no room to doubt that they felt they were in the presence of a mystery which Providence was Himself unravelling.
But even if William Dalrymple had been murdered, what connection could there be between the partakers in the foul deed, and the little girl? She could never have shared in the horrid transaction
Lady Kennedy hurried her out of the church, and, with a final and a peremptory instruction to the minister to lock the door of the building, and to communicate at once with the criminal authorities, drove off.
Ere nightfall the body had been duly examined and the depositions taken of those who had witnessed its bleeding, as well as of those who were familiar with Dalrymple's disappearance, and who had been present when the corpse was recovered from the waters of the Firth.
The country-side rang with the tidings, and ominous rumours spread from peasant to peasant, and from village to village. The little maid who had accompanied Lady Kennedy was the child of her daughter, the wife of James Mure, younger of Auchendrane. It had never been known in all the annals of crime that blood had flowed in presence of a relative of the murderer; but surely, here was a special interposition of heaven to ensure that blood must have blood! It was recalled that, at the time when William Dalrymple was sent away to Arran, he had last been seen in the company of James Mure. It was further remembered that his exile to the Low Countries had been preceded by his enforced sojourn in the house of Auchendrane, the residence of the Mures. And harking still further back, it was told that, after the murder of Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean in the wood of St. Leonard's, near the town of Ayr, the Mures had hidden Dalrymple, so that, when the case came before the Court of Justiciary, he could not be found. The Crown had sought for him. The Lord Advocate had openly accused the Mures of secreting the only witness who could identify their connection with the death of the slaughtered Knight, and though John Mure of Auchendrane had indignantly denied the charge and attempted to make out that it was the Crown authorities who were keeping him out of the way, rumour had been busy in making out that they owed their discharge at that time to the non-appearance in the witness box of the man now lying dead in the church of Girvan. And was it not now clear that heaven was intervening to bring light out of darkness, and counsel out of perplexity?
Current rumour crystallized itself into a directly formulated charge; and within a few days of the recovery of the body, the Mures, father and son, were apprehended and conveyed, first to the Tolbooth of Ayr, and then to the grim Heart of Midlothian. And with them into captivity went James Bannatyne, the farmer of Chapeldonnan.
It can be no matter of surprise to find that the common people of Carrick regarded the spouting out of the blood in the case of William Dalrymple as a direct interposition of the Almighty; for not only at that period was the superstition credited as an indisputable fact by the country at large, but the learned senators and advocates of the College of Justice gravely sanctioned the hearing of evidence in such cases and drew learned and conclusive deductions from it. Even the celebrated Sir John Dalrymple of Stair and Sir George Mackenzie were ready to argue that where guilt could not otherwise be brought home, the blood test must be accepted as conclusive. They acted as public prosecutors in a case in which Philip Stanfield, the son of Sir James Stanfield of Newmills, was charged with having murdered his father. One of the witnesses, a surgeon, swore that "upon the prisoner's assisting to lift the body of his deceased father after it had been sewn up and clean linen put on, it darted out blood through the linen from the left side of the neck, which the panel touched, but that when he (the witness) and the other surgeon put on the linen and stirred and moved the head and neck, he saw no blood at all." In the indictment the circumstances attending the blood-spouting are more fully detailed:-
And accordingly James Row, merchant, who was in Edinburgh at the time of the murder, having lifted the left side of Sir James, his head and shoulder, and the said Philip his right side, his father's body, though carefully cleaned, as said is, so as the least blood was not on it, did (according to God's usual method of discovering murderers) blood afresh upon him and defile all his hands; which struck him with such a terror that he immediately let his father's head and body fall with violence, and fled from the body!, and in consternation and confusion cried, 'Lord have mercy upon me,' and bowed himself down over a seat in the church (where the corpse was inspected) wiping his father's innocent blood off his own murdering hands upon his clothes."
It was argued for the defence that this was but a superstitious observance, without any ground either in law or reason; that bodies had been known to bleed in presence of persons who were not guilty; that the bleeding in the case of Sir James Stanfield was directly due to an incision in his neck made by the surgeon ; that the accused was only one of several who were present and in direct communication with the corpse; that he had touched his father's body before the incision and it did not bleed; and that the panel's grief and horror were the result of natural duty and affection.
Sir James Dalrymple answered that " although the deceased's servants had made a mutiny anent the burial till the corpse was sighted, yet the panel caused bury the corpse that same night without shewing them. After warrant for raising the body had been obtained, the inspection by surgeons and the touching took place; when the panel let his father's hand fall to the ground and cried out 'O God,' and ran away and went to a desk in the church where he lay groaning and in confusion, and durst never return to touch the corpse. And as there could no natural reason be given but an ordinary and wonderful providence of God in this kind of discovery of murder, so the fact was never more evident and sure. Though half a dozen of persons were bearing the corpse, no man's hands wore bloody but the panelís! That the corpse being two entire, days in the grave, in that weather and season, the blood, by the course of nature, was become stagnant and congealed, so that the former tossing and lifting of the corpse, and even the incision itself, had occasioned no such effusion, but only some water or gore, but upon the first touch of the panel, the murderer, there appeared abundance of liquid florid blood."
And Sir George Mackenzie, backing up the allegations and the pleadings of Sir James Dalrymple, asserted that " God Almighty himself was pleased to bear a share in 'the testimonies which we produce; that Divine power, which makes the blood circulate during life, has oft-times, in all nations, opened a passage to it after death upon such occasions, but most in this case.'
Sentence of death followed, and was no doubt duly carried out. Many similar instances are recorded in the criminal and other annals of the country. When Henry II. of England was being borne to his grave in Anjou, his son, Richard Cceur de Lion, approached the bier, when, according to the chronicler, the blood in great abundance gushed out of the mouth and nostrils of the corpse, a sight that so moved the Lion Heart that he burst into tears and openly accused himself of being the murderer of his father. At the bar of the King's Bench, 1628, a remarkable case was heard. A Cororner's Jury had returned a verdict of suicide on the remains of a woman who had been found, with her throat cut, dead in bed. The verdict being regarded as unsatisfactory, the body was disinterred thirty days after it had been laid in the grave. The minister of the parish required those who were suspected of the crime to touch the body. Three of them came forward and complied with his command; and that, depones the minister, to some purpose. "The brow of the dead, which was before of a livid and carrion colour, began to have a dew or gentle sweat arise upon it, which increased by degrees until the sweat ran down in drops on the face. The brow turned to a lively and fresh colour, and the deceased opened one of her eyes and shut it again. And this opening the eye was done three several times. She likewise thrust out the ring or marriage finger three times, and pulled it in again, and the finger dropped blood from it on the grass." The Lord Chief Justice having expressed some reasonable doubt as to the bona fides of the evidence, the minister of the next parish was put into the witness-box and corroborated his fellow divine in every point, adding that "he himself dipped his finger in the blood which came from the dead body, to examine it, and he swore he believed it was blood." Two executions followed. In 1683 two murderers were gibbeted in Glasgow. "Though their entrails were taken out and their bodies cleansed from all blood, yet when it (the body of one of the culprits) came to the place where the murder was committed, it did gush out in blood in the arm which was cut, testified to be a truth by the beholders which was a testimony of their guilt." When the coach of Middleton was driven underneath the Netherbow Port of Edinburgh, two or three drops of blood fell upon it from the head of the martyred Guthrie, which "all their art and diligence could not wipe off." But probably the most wonderful instance is that preserved by Sir Walter Scott concerning a murder that took place on the banks of the Yarrow. A quarrel had arisen between two young men, and one, in a fit of passion, stabbed the other to the heart with a fish spear. The man-slayer was never suspected. Fifty years passed, "when a smith, fishing near the same place, discovered an uncommon and curious bone which he put in his pocket and afterwards showed to some people in his smithy. The murderer being present, now a white-headed old man, leaning on his staff, desired a sight of the little bone. But how horrible was the issue! No sooner had he touched it than it streamed with purple blood. Being told where it was found, he confessed the crime, was condemned, but was prevented by death from suffering the punishment due to his offence."
The old Scottish jurists were quite satisfied to accept the bleeding as entirely providential, but an English legal authority had the hardihood to formulate an explanation of the phenomenon.
"For certainly," he says, " the souls of them that are treacherously murdered by surprise use to leave their bodies with extreme unwillingness and with vehement indignation against them that force them to so unprovided and abhorred a passage. That soul, then, to wreak its evil talent against the hated murderer, and to draw a just and desired revenge upon his head, would do all it can to manifest the author of the fact. To speak it cannot, for in itself It wanteth the organs of voice ; and those it is parted from are now grown too heavy, and are too benumbed for to give motion unto. Yet some change it desireth to make in the body which it hath so vehement inclination to, and therefore is the aptest for it to work upon. It must then endeavour to cause a motion in the subtlest and more fluid parts (and consequently the most moveable ones) of it. This can be nothing but the blood, which then being vehemently moved, must needs gush out at those places where it findeth issue."
Is it any wonder that the peasants of Carrick recognized the finger of Providence in the purple stream that gushed from the veins of William Dalrymple in presence of little Marie Mure, the daughter of one of his suspected murderers?
The trial of the Mures, which followed, excited the most intense interest throughout the whole of the western shires, partly because of the social standing of the principals, partly because of the nature of the murder itself and the circumstances surrounding it, and partly because it was all but universally believed that the discovery of the crime was the direct work of the Almighty Himself. The elder Mure was eighty years of age. He had thrown himself with a passionate earnestness, rarely characteristic of more than three score years and ten, into the struggle between the rival branches of the great Kennedy family, siding with Kennedy of Bargany, the powerful rival of the Earl of Cassillis. He had himself instigated the slaughter of Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean, whose widow it was who came to the church of Girvan and pointed out to the minister the evidences of foul play. Lady Kennedy's daughter was married to the younger Mure, but even this did not for a moment abate or allay the desire for vengeance which she nourished against the murderers of her husband. William Dalrymple, then a mere lad, had, unfortunately for himself, conveyed a letter from Sir Thomas Kennedy to Mure the elder, imparting the information that on a given date he would ride towards Edinburgh. and it was by acting on this letter, written and conceived by Sir Thomas in quite a freindly spirit, that Mure had brought about his death. The Laird of Auchendrane did not himself take part in the murder, but it was his brain that planned it, and it was at his instigation and on his instructions that it was carried out. To obviate the subsequent risk of discovery, the Mures had, as already stated, first hidden Dalrymple in Arran, and then had sent him off to fight and to perish in the wars of the Low Countries. Dalrymple had escaped privation and exposure, the long marches, the cold nights in the trenches, the searching bullets and the hurtling cannon shot, and, a strong and a stalwart man, he had returned to Ayrshire, to the intense mortification of the Mures of Auchendrane, and to his own undoing.
Using the farmer of Chapeldonnan, James Bannatyne, an old retainer of theirs and a relative of Dalrymple, as their tool, the Mures had succeeded in arranging an interview with the object at once of their fear and their hatred, on the sands of the Girvan shore, and thither they went with the deliberate intention of murdering him. So minutely were the veriest details planned, that not only did they carry firearms with them to be used in case of unexpected emergency, but also a rope for the purpose of strangulation, and spades with which to bury the dead out of their sight. All unthinking, Dalrymple kept tryst, and at the appointed hour he stepped upon a stretching sandbank on the Carrick shore in company with his relative the farmer of Chapeldonnan. Bannatyne was not aware that nothing short of deliberate murder was in the breasts of the Mures; all that he intended to connive at was the kidnapping of his kinsman and sending him away for the third time from Ayrshire. But once on the seashore he was helpless to prevent the atrocity.
At a previously concerted signal the younger Mure sprang upon Dalrymple and knocked him down. Dalrymple was somewhat stunned, but his Continental training and a natural quickness in action impelled him at once to act on the defensive. He grappled with his adversary, who kneeled over him, but James Mure was a man of great bodily strength, and he held him down firmly pinned to the ground, until his father succeeded in rendering him senseless by a brutal kick on the head. The rope was then rapidly passed around the neck of the inert man, and, the ends being drawn tight the compression was maintained until the last sign of life had departed.
The murder accomplished, the murderers compelled Bannatyne to aid in disposing of the corpse. The tide was flowing, but it was still some distance off, and the younger Mure and Bannatyne, the latter horror-stricken at the terrible transaction, deftly plied their spades. The yielding sand and incoming waters made their task an impossibility. The shore would not hide their dead out of their sight.
To the sea Dalrymple must be given up. The night was waning apace, and the Mures were anxious to be gone; so, again forcing Bannatyne to aid them, they raised the body in their arms and stepped into the water. An easterly wind was blowing right off the shore. The currents of the Firth at that point run northwards, towards Ayr, and therefore, concluded the Mures, the corpse would be absolutely certain to be carried out into the deeps beyond, and away from the spot where the murder had taken place. They waded out until the cold night waters chilled them, and until the rippling wavelets were breast high, and then they deposited their burden in the sea, and hasted ashore with what speed they could muster. With a final admonition and threat to Bannatyne, the Mures mounted their horses and rode away to Auchendrane, and the unhappy farmer, stricken with horror and afraid to look behind him, sought refuge in his own home at Chapeldonnan.
Nor was that the end of the scheming and the plotting of the Mures. During the brief period that elapsed ere they were conveyed prisoners to the Tolbooth of Ayr, they endeavoured to direct the attention of the criminal authorities against themselves in a direction less base and less revolting than that they had so much reason to dread. They planned the killing of a member of the Kennedy family, a relative of the Earl of Cassillis ; and not only planned it but made an ineffectual attempt to carry it into execution. The only result was that the doughty Kennedy, valiantly returned blow for blow, severely wounded the younger Mure, and then rode off. Still afraid that events would prove too many for them, they employed a ruffian of their own to kill Bannatyne, and actually made arrangements for the murder of the desperado after he had served their purpose.
But Providence, long-waiting, interposed. The corpse of William Dalrymple came ashore within a few yards of the spot where it had been deposited in the waters of the Firth of Clyde, and the criminal career of the Mures of Auchendrane was at an end.
And yet it was only because the King was in his own mind absolutely convinced of their guilt that they did not succeed in escaping punishment. There was no direct proof against them. Even Bannatyne for a time refused to become king's evidence. The torture was applied to James Mure, but he bore the terrible ordeal with unflinching fortitude, and, when his leg was crushed and the bones smashed to a jelly, he called God to witness that he was innocent. The public clamoured for his release, and the criminal authorities could not have resisted the demand so long as they did, save for the King. But the King was obdurate, and his obduracy was justified when Bannatyne yielded to mingled fears, threats, and promises, and confessed the truth.
Before the High Court of Justiciary the Mures protested that they were guiltless, and loudly accused their wretched accomplice, albeit their unwilling coadjutor in crime, of perjury. This he solemnly denied, and, falling on his knees, he raised his hand to Heaven and swore that what he said was the truth.
Father and son expiated their guilt upon the scaffold. The Scottish guillotine, the Maiden, was the instrument used; and, in presence of a vast concourse of people, the Mures were decapitated. Previous to their death they admitted their crimes. The younger Mure professed penitence, but the elder, with the snows of winter upon his head, his long white beard down to his waist, and eighty years to look back upon, remained callous and careless to the end. He ascended the scaffold without a tremor, and placed his head on the block, and, with the swish of the sharp knife, the murder of William Dalrymple was expiated.
Source "The Annuls of Ayr"