Following the ‘Glorious’ or ‘Bloodless’ Revolution of 1689 , when William of Orange was crowned King of England and Scotland and displaced James VII and II , in Scotland, there was still resistance from the people. As fighting continued to break out, people were arrested and imprisoned for petty crimes, such as not praying for the King’s health, to violet uprisings.

Kneller, Godfrey; King William III (1650-1702); Cromwell Museum;

Because of the political unrest, William and Mary issued multiple edicts to increase the authority and role of military troops all over the country. This sometimes led to confrontations, with people being press-ganged into joining the expanding military, or caught up in the protests against the same force.

One such man was Pass Sungal – also named as Robieson or Robertson – the “blackmore servant to the Laird of Prestongrange” (NRS, PC1/48 p643), who was caught up in a protest in March 1693. His employer, William Morison of Prestongrange, was a politician in the Parliament of Scotland and would later become a member of the first British Parliament after the Union of the Parliaments.

While there had been scandals and protests in the universities and churches, this protest was of a different kind. According to the Privy Council’s report of the event:

Privy Council: Register of Acta (NRS, PC1/48 p620)

That day the annuall horse race wes at Leith and by the way comeing from it a baxters servant and ane of Sir James Leslies souldiers fell aquarelling about a baxter young man said to have been pressed in the Canongate. Upon this the baxters servants there gathered together and threattened to force the guaird and search the Canongate tollbooth. But the guaird told them that there wes none of there oune number in the tollbooth they went off, but immediately stirred up the baxters and other trades servants of the city with whome some other young fellowes joyneing they went and seized and thus the nether bow port and then sett upon the court of guaird in Edinburgh.

Transcript NRS, SRO10/582/4 p135

The protest of the young men of the city lasted most of the day and in the evening, they stormed the guard house, seeking the missing baxter. In the ensuing scuffle, two bystanders were killed with one shot despite the fact “the guard hade been forbid in former occasiones of this kynd to shoot sharp or with bullets”; the guards surrendered the guard house to “prevent greater mischief”. In the week that followed, new legislation was enforced to allow the guards “to fire and shoot with bullets all such as shall so assemble themselves in such tumults” (NRS, PC1/48 p617).

Once they breached the guard house, demanding the liberation of the prisoners, they armed themselves “appointing centinells and standing centinells and beating of drums…as if they hade been the lawfull guairds of the said burgh”. They reportedly marched through the old town, beating the drums, until they were forced to disperse in the early hours of the morning.

Old Guard House of Edinburgh. James Skene, watercolour, 1827. City of Edinburgh Council – Edinburgh Libraries

Because of this so-called tumult, new edicts were put in place within a fortnight stating that “it is declared high treason to the subjects of this kingdome or any of number of them more or less upon any ground of pretext whatsomever to continow in armes” (NRS, PC1/48 p642).

Several men were brought before the Privy Council for their parts in leading the protest, including Pass Sungal who had “wounded with a small sword James Gilchrist, soldier, while he wes standing centinell at the said guaird door”.

However, it is also worth noting that, despite the Privy Council declaring “they ought and should be most severely punished”, three of the people brought before it were released from the Tolbooth in the following months: Edison, Mathieson (both tailors) and Pass Sungal (NRS, PC1/49 p61).

Privy Council: Register of Acta (NRS, PC1/49 p92)

On 27 June 1693, the Privy Council “sett at liberty furth thereof Pass Sungall a blackmoir who was imprisoned for being in a tumult in Edinburgh in March last in respect he hath first inacted himself in the books of the Privie Councell that he shall live peaceably under and with all submission to the present government of their Majesties King William and Queen Mary … and that he shall appear when called for under the penaltie of five hundredth marks scotts in caise he shall transgress in any part of the premisses” (Transcript NRS, SRO10/582/4 314-315).

This is especially compelling because other prisoners who threw stones or banged drums were still detained or sent to the house of correction (NRS, SRO10/582/4 p608). While it cannot be confirmed, it can be hypothesized that the men who were released were considered of a more respectable social rank which gained them a more lenient sentence, despite the fact they were key players in the protest: two tailors and the servant of a gentleman’s household.

After his liberation from the Tolbooth, Pass Sungal abided by the conditions of his release and – unfortunately for us – vanishes from the record.

Clare Stubbs

Imaging Technician

One thought on “A Tumult in the City

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