Sir Godfrey McCulloch of Ardwell (c.1640-1697)

Coat of Arms of Clansfolk of Clan McCulloch
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Last McCulloch Baronet of Nova Scotia

Born circa 1640, Godfrey McCulloch inherited not only his father's hereditary title of baronet of Nova Scotia but overwhelming debt forcing him to sell the estates of Myretoun, Killaser and Ardwell. He carried on the running feud his father, Sir Alexander of Myretoun (not the one of the same name 100 years before) had started with the Gordons of Galloway, and, at the same time, resorted to every ruse to evade his creditors.

Sir Godfrey took up his residence at Bardarroch, site of the modern Cardiness House where he and his family lived until his execution. Sir Godfrey appears to have taken little part in public life though he was a Commissioner for Supply for Wigtownshire in 1685 and represented the Stewartry of Kircudbrightshire in the Convention of Estates in 1678. Being an anti-Covenanter, he was appointed a sheriff depute for Stranraer in 1682, and a commission issued to him, David Graham (brother of "Bonnie Dundee" Claverhouse) and William Coltran, ■for tendering the Test to the Gentry and Commons within the Shire of Wigtown. It is to his credit however that he refused to have any share in the brutal treatment of the Wigtown Martyrs.

The McCulloch-Gordon feud came to a head on 2 October 1690 when in the course of a dispute over some cattle, Sir Godfrey murderedWilliam Gordon. The facts stated in his indictment tell the tale:
You [Sir Godfrey] did most maliciously and wickedly and out of long precogtat malice upon the second day of October or ane or other days of that month or of the September preceding in the year sixteen hundred and nyntie years goe to the house of the deceast William Gordone of Cairdeness who at that time lived in the Bush of Beele and having caused call the said William Gordone to come furth and speak to a man that waited for him the said William at the time in his own house making ready to go to sermon which was at that day at the kirk of Anwith and not apprehending the least hurt or mischeiffe offered to goe furth and came towards the gate where and when you, the said Sir Godfrey, did shoot at him with a gunn charged and by the shott broke his thighbone and leg and also wounded him in other parts of his body, soe that he immediately fell to the ground and within a few hours thereafter dyed of the said shott and wounds and farder, you was so barbarous and inhumane in perpetuating the sais slaughter that you insulted over the said William fallen as said is saying Now dog I have got myself avenged of you; and you discharged any from lifting him up but ordered and commanded such as were there to dryve the nolt over the dog as you wickedly called him.

On hearing William Gordon had expired, Sir Godfrey immediately fled abroad and, in 1691, was at Cranstoun in the Isle of Man whence he wrote to David McCulloch of Ardwall, ■I dessayn to live this ples veray shortly iff I had any littell munnay and goe for Lundone." In December 1696, he returned to Scotland and was apprehended under the alias of Mr Johnstoune living in an obscure house in Edinburgh. Sir Godfrey was incarcerated in the Tolbooth Prison, to which he was no stranger, having been lodged there some years earlier pending the payment of a fine levied on him in 1668 for his share in his father's persecution of the Gordons. He was tried on 7 February 1697, duly found guilty and sentenced to be ■taken to the Mercat Croce (Merchant Cross) upon Friday the fifth day of March next to come betwixt two and four o'clock in the afternoon and there to have his head severed from his body and all his moveable goods and gear to be escheat and inbrought to His Majesties use which is pronounced for doom."

Sir Godfrey McCulloch was not actually executed until 26 March and wrote a lengthy Farewell letter to his wife and children. As he stepped up to the Iron Maiden, the Scottish version of the guillotine, he was allowed to make a Farewell speech. It is said four Galloway gentlemen held the scarlet cloth to receive Sir Godfrey's head - an honour in those days - one of them being Mr Vance of Barnbarroch who related afterwards that after McCulloch's head fell the body stood up and ran for about 100 yards!

A popular tradition, quoted by Sir Walter Scott (whose brother married a McCulloch) in his The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, gives a different and more pleasing ending to this grim story:
The Keep of Myretoun stands, as may be seen at this day, on an ancient mote-hill. It is alleged that Sir Godfrey, in the early days of his possession, had occasion to cut a drain through this mound, when a little man in a green coat appeared and warned him that he was interfering with the ■fairies■ abode therein. He promised that if Sir Godfrey would desist, he (the gnome) would some day reward him by a signal service; but if not, the vengeance of the fairies would have to be reckoned with. Sir Godfrey obliged the little man by altering his plan, and the reward came on the day appointed for his execution, when the gnome appeared on a white horse, took McCulloch out of the cart, rode off with him, and neither of the twain was ever seen again.

Farewell Letter to Wife and Children

Farewell Speech on the Gallows

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