Creichton's Memoirs and the Murder of David Steel

Creichton long survived the Revolution. While visiting Ireland in 1730, he met Jonathan Swift, who edited and published his memoirs in 1731, under the title The Memoirs of Capt. John Creichton. From his own Materials, drawn up and digested by Jonathan Swift, D.D., D.S.P.D. Creichton's lively account differs widely from that of Lesmahagow witnesses, and from the 1714 Cloud of Witnesses: it characterizes David Steel as a bloodthirsty villain, and it completely exonerates himself of the murder. Creichton's account is reprinted in the notes to Sir Walter Scott, Chronicles of the Canongate, where it is introduced as a digression on the ancestry of a servant woman named Christie Steele. Scott casts some doubt upon Creichton's account, adding that
"Woodrow [Robert Wodrow (1679-1734), author of History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution. ] gives a different account of this exploit: – "In December this year, (1686), David Steil, in the parish of Lismahagow, was surprised in the fields by Lieutenant Creichton, and after his surrender of himself on quarters, he was in a very little time most barbarously shot, and lies buried in the churchyard there."

Having drank hard one night, I dreamed that I had found Captain David Steele, a notorious rebel, in one of the five farmers' houses on a mountain in the shire of Clydesdale, and parish of Lismahago, within eight miles of Hamilton, a place that I was well acquainted with. This man was head of the rebels since the affair of Airs-Moss, having succeeded to Hackston, who had been there taken, and afterward hanged, as the reader has already heard; for, as to Robert Hamilton, who was then Commander-in-chief at Bothwell Bridge, he appeared no more among them, but fled, as it was believed, to Holland.

Steele, and his father before him, held a farm in the estate of Hamilton, within two or three miles of that town. When he betook himself to arms, the farm lay waste, and the Duke could find no other person who would venture to take it; whereupon his Grace sent several messages to Steele, to know the reason why he kept the farm waste. The Duke received no other answer than that he would keep it waste, in spite of him and the king too; whereupon his Grace, at whose table I had always the honour to be a welcome guest, desired I would use my endeavours to destroy that rogue, and I would oblige him for ever....

I return to my story. When I awaked out of my dream, as I had done before in the affair of Wilson (and I desire the same apology I made in the introduction to these Memoirs may serve for both), I presently rose, and ordered thirty-six dragoons to be at the place appointed by break of day. When we arrived thither, I sent a party to each of the five farmers' houses. This villain Steele had murdered above forty of the king's subjects in cold blood, and, as I was informed, had often laid snares to entrap me; but it happened that, although he usually kept a gang to attend him, yet at this time he had none, when he stood in the greatest need. One of the party found him in one of the farmers' houses, just as I happened to dream. The dragoons first searched all the rooms below without success, till two of them hearing somebody stirring over their heads, went up a pair of turnpike stairs. Steele had put on his clothes while the search was making below; the chamber where he lay was called the Chamber of Deese, which is the name given to a room where the laird lies when he comes to a tenant's house. Steele suddenly opening the door, fired a blunderbuss down at the two dragoons, as they were coming up the stairs; but the bullets grazing against the side of the turnpike, only wounded, and did not kill them. Then Steele violently threw himself down the stairs among them, and made towards the door to save his life, but lost it upon the spot; for the dragoons who guarded the house dispatched him with their broadswords. I was not with the party when he was killed, being at that time employed in searching one of the other houses, but I soon found what had happened, by hearing the noise of the shot made with the blunderbuss; from whence I returned straight to Lanark, and immediately sent one of the dragoons express to General Drummond at Edinburgh.

Steele was buried in the churchyard of Lismahago by some of his friends, who, after the Revolution, erected a fair monument, on pillars, over his grave, and caused an epitaph to be engraved on the stone, in words to this effect: "Here lieth the body of Captain David Steele, a saint who was murdered by John Creichton" (with the date underneath).

Some of my friends burlesqued this epitaph in the following manner:

"Here lies the body of Saint Steele
Murdered by John Creichton that dee'l."
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