1820 - Radical War

The Radical War

In 1819 economic depression revived the radical cause. 'Union societies', based on the ideas of English radical Joseph Brayshaw, helped to provide a framework for secret meetings to plot the overthrow of the government. In the aftermath of the Peterloo massacre in England - in which a peaceful demonstration for reform was put down by a bloody cavalry charge - Scottish radicals began to contemplate violence. On April Fool's day 1820 three weavers from Parkhead in Glasgow produced the Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland which urged a general strike against the government to gain rights for the working classes. Sixty thousand Glasgow workers downed tools and a general insurrection was planned, but failed to take place.

Despite the failure of the revolution to materialise, some small groups of radicals still decided to take action. At Strathaven one hundred radicals took the village and started to march on Glasgow. In Glasgow another much smaller group met on Glasgow Green and decided to march on Carron iron works and take some cannon. It was the latter group who encountered a cavalry force at Bonnymuir. Eighteen were taken prisoner, including the two leaders, Andrew Hardie and John Baird. The leader of the Strathaven men, James Wilson, was also later captured. All three were executed. The incidents passed into tradition as the 'Radical War'.

Battle of Bonnymuir

An Account of the Battle which took place at Bonnymuir, on Wednesday the 5th April, 1820, betwixt about 50 of the Radicals and a party of the Military; with the names of the 15 Radical prisoners. - Also, the names of those Killed and Wounded at Greenock, on Saturday last. text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here text goes here

Kilsyth, 5th April 1820
This morning a gentleman residing in this parish belonging to the Falkirk troop of Yeomanry Cavalry; left home to join his troop at Falkirk, and had proceeded a short way from his own house, when he came up with between 25 to 30 Radicals, all armed with pikes, muskets, and pistols, who stopped him and requested him to give up his arms, which he refused to do, and showed them a disposition to resist. They told him (at the same time presenting at him several pistols) that resistance would be vain, as they would kill him on the spot. He, however, got off retaining his arms and meeting with an Orderly from Kilsyth going with dispatches to Stirling, informed him it would be improper to proceed. They accordingly both returned to Kilsyth and reported, when the Commanding-Officer there ordered ten men and a serjeant from the 10th Hussars and as many of the Yeomanry Cavalry, to escort the Orderly and the other Gentleman on their several roads, and to endeavour to fall in with these armed Radicals if possible. The Radicals, in the interval, had been joined by a number more, who proceeded along the Canal Bank towards Bonny-muir, having taken several fowling-pieces and a pitch-fork from farmhouses in the neighbourhood of Bonnybridge.

The Cavalry, on their arrival at Loanhead, being informed of their proceedings, immediately went to Bonnymuir in search of the Radicals, and, on coming up with them, they showed a disposition to fight rather than fly; having taken their position behind an old dyke, they allowed the Cavalry to come within thirty yards of them, when they fired a volley; the Cavalry instantly charged, firing a few shots when going over the dyke; the Radicals received the charge with their pikes, and made all the resistance in their power, but they soon found themselves in a bad situation, and throwing away their arms, endeavoured to escape, when the Cavalry secured nineteen prisoners; three of whom are wounded, two remained on the field so badly wounded as not to be able to be carried to Stirling Castle, where the prisoners are lodged. Eight or ten of those who escaped are said to be wounded, and have not been able to go from the place where the affair happened. The whole number of the Radicals did not exceed forty or fifty. None of the Cavalry are severely wounded; two are slightly in the hand; and one horse severely wounded in three different places (since dead) and a number of horses slightly.

It is reported that the whole of the prisoners belong to Glasgow, except one of the name of Baird, said to be their leader, who lately resided at Condorrat. It is said that the whole had been drilling in the Calton Green of Glasgow this morning, that they left that place about four o'clock, and went over the country in a straggling way till they arrived at Bonnymuir, where they expected to be joined by a number from all parts of the country during the evening and tomorrow.

Names of the prisoners

John Baird, Andrew Hardie,
  Thomas M'Culloch,   John Barr,
  William Smith,   Benjamin Moir,
  Allan Murchy,   Alexander Latimer,
  Alexander Johnston,   Andrew White,
  David Thomson,   James Wright,
  Thomas Pink,   Robert Gray.
  James Cleland,

Saturday morning, about three o'clock, the prisoners were put on board a Steam Boat at Stirling, under the charge of a Macer of Justiciary, and a party of the 4th Veterans. They were landed at Newhaven, where six carriages were waiting for them to be conveyed to the Jail.

Names of the Killed and Wounded at Greenock

Names Age Wounds
Adam Glephane, 48 Under the groin Dead
Archibald Drummond, 20 Shot dead through chest Dead
James Kerr, 17 Through the belly Dead
John McWhinnie, 65 Through shoulder and chest Dead
Hugh Paterson, 14 Through leg Leg amputated
John Patrick, 30 Through the thigh Doing well
David McBride, 14 Through the cheek and jaw Doing well
A McKinnon 17 Through chest and arm Doubtful
Catherine Turner 65 Through the leg Leg amputated
The above in the Infirmary
John Boyce, 33 Through the belly Dead
George Tillery, 25 Through the thigh Doing well
Robert Spence, 11 Slightly in the foot Slightly
William Lindsay, 15 Shot dead on the spot Dead
James McGilp, 8 Ball in right thigh  
Gilbert McArthur, 18 Through the left thigh Flesh wound
John Turner, 22 Through calk of the leg Flesh wound
Peter Cameron, 14 Through right leg Flesh wound
John Gunn, 24 Through calf of left leg  

Battle Of Bonnymuir and An Account of the Skirmish, which took place at Greenock on Saturday last; betwixt the Port Glasgow Volunteers (escorting five Radical prisoners from Paisley) and the inhabitants; when Nine of the latter were Killed, and 15 dangerously Wounded, Radical tracts RB.m.145 (3) - (4), Glasgow, 1820.

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