Robert Junkins' Story

The following was complied and edited by Ann Cheney. Much of it was taken from several articles written by Alan Junkins in the JFA newsletters. Other portions were taken from various web accounts; links to several of these accounts and others can be found at the end of this page.

The Wedding of William Jonking and Elspet Maull

Sometime prior to 1621, William Jonking and Elspet Maull attended a meeting of the Session of the Brechin Cathedral and indicated their intention to marry. They were expected to be able to repeat the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed and the Ten Commandments. On the three Sundays thereafter their names were proclaimed in church. Then, it was the duty of the Session Clerk, for a fee of twelve shillings, to enter their names in the "Session Book." It also was the Session Clerk's duty to keep record of marriages actually solemnized. Once the contract was made, William and Elspet needed to hold a wedding within forty days and in order to show good faith they had to find two witnesses who would deposit the sum of five pounds each with the Session.

All weddings had to be solemnized in the church and on fixed days, Tuesdays or Thursdays, between ten o'clock and two o'clock in the afternoon. If the wedding was arranged for any other day it would cost an additional twenty shillings to the Session. At times when there were several weddings at the church on the same day, there could be quite a disturbance. There was a superstition that luck attended the bride who first went out the church door, and the scramble of, "hurling her to the door," could be far from edifying, but if they did not stay until the Blessing was finished the civil magistrate was empowered to go to the house where the wedding dinner was being held and apprehend the bridegroom and bride and imprison them.


On Monday, December 24, 1621, William Jonking and his wife Elspet took their new baby to the parish church in Brechin to have him baptized. The Reverend Alexander Bisset, minister of the Brechin Cathedral, Angus County, Scotland, performed the service. James Watt, Clerk to the Session, recorded the event in the first volume of the Brechin Cathedral Parochial Register, where he had been recording such events since his appointment as Clerk of Session in 1615. He wrote the following:

"december 24 1621
Wm Jonking Spous to elspit Maull had ane man bairne baptesit named robert witness robert kynndie and robert dempster."

Three years later, James Watt added this to the Parochial Register:

"25 febr 1624
William Jonking in carretston Spous to elspet maull had ane maid bairne baptesit called agnes, witness James dempster Walter Corbat."

The Register is now in safe keeping at the New Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland.1

"carretston" or Careston is about four miles west of Brechin in Angus County, Scotland. It did not have its own parish church until about 1714.2 Before that time, the people of Careston went to the Brechin Cathedral to hear the preaching on Sundays and Tuesdays, brought their newborn to be baptized, and went there to be married. In 1851, Careston had a population of 218.

Careston is where Robert Junkins and his sister, Agnes, were born and as far as we know, spent the first years of their lives.

Early Years and School

Robert Jonking spent his first 29 years in Brechin. There is no record of either he or his sister marrying there. Because Robert signed his will with an "X", many have assumed he was illiterate but it is quite possible that he was, in fact, educated.

The grammar school of Brechin in the early 1600s offered both elementary and advanced instruction for boys. Instruction in Latin, both language and literature, was the major part, but instruction in religion also occupied an important part. The laws and constitution of Scotland required that all boys be brought up and instruction in the fear of God and good manners. In the 1560's the Scottish Parliament pronounced that it would not be good for either their bodies or their souls if God's word was not rooted in them.

The school day was inordinately long. Six o'clock in the morning to six in the evening with a two-hour break. At Brechin, the school year was divided into four quarters beginning on February 2 and divided at May 1, August 1, and November 1. All pupils had to pay seven to 13 shillings per quarter, depending on whether they lived in the town or outside the town. The school fees were regulated by the Town Council, but were paid directly to the schoolmaster. The sons of poor parents were not kept from enrolling at Brechin Grammar School, if their ability or ambition inspired them to seek learning. The Church directed that "care be taken for putting all the children of the parish who are capable of instruction to schools, and that such amongst them as are poor have their quarter payments paid by the Session out of the penalties." The boys of the Grammar School were obliged to attend both services in the Church on Sundays and to sit with the schoolmaster in the pews allotted to their use. As part of their training, the boys of the Grammar School were called upon to repeat a portion of the Catechism in the Church every Sunday.

Preamble to War

In 1625, at the age of 25, Charles I became King of all of Great Britain. During the next four years, he called four Parliaments into session but dissolved each because the members would not submit to his demands. Charles believed strongly in the "divine right of kings." For the next 11 years, Charles ruled without a Parliament. In 1639, he tried to force Scotland to use the English forms of worship but the Scots rebelled and Charles had to call a new Parliament to raise the money he needed to fight the rebels.

In 1642, when the new Parliament would not support Charles' demands. he tried to seize five of the Parliamentary leaders. Although the nobility, gentry and clergy supported Charles, the Puritan and the merchant class supported Parliament and civil war soon broke out. Charles I fled to the Netherlands.

The Scottish Parliament proclaimed Charles as their King but proclamation was on the condition that he subscribe to their Covenant and accept Parliamentary direction in civil affairs and to the Presbyterian Assembly in ecclesiastical matters. Charles returned to Scotland and complied with this for a period of time but eventually the Scottish leaders sent Charles back to the English Parliament and he was convicted of treason and beheaded.

Invasion and Occupation

During 1644-45, when Robert was 23 years old, Brechin was occupied on five occasions by Montrose and the royalist troops of England. The first time was September 10. This was a short occupation, for the following week the Marquis of Argyll and the Scottish army arrived and made the town a rendezvous for the Covenanting troops, both horse and foot, and then continued the pursuit of the enemy.

A month later Montrose's army again occupied Brechin and all the inhabitants fled into the county. A few days later Argyll, still chasing Montrose, stayed in Brechin for a few days.

In 1645, on Sunday, March 23, Montrose again occupied Brechin. The merciless enemy remained most of that week and during that time plundered the town. Half of the town was set on fire and the terror-stricken people fled once again for refuge in the country. They hid their goods in the Castle and the church steeples, which enraged the soldiers. They found their goods, plundered the Castle and half the town, and burnt about sixty houses. A week later, on April 4, part of Montrose's troops were back in what was left of Brechin.

Then at last, Brechin was given a respite to restore things to normal. The town was in a heart-breaking state of upheaval and disorder. The church had been broken into and ransacked. The collection take on the Sunday just before Montrose's arrival had been hidden in a secret part of the church but the enemy had found it and had taken it away. The Church Bible had been attended to and was safe but one of the Session Registers was gone and never recovered.

Once again, on July 2, Montrose, with the largest army he had ever commanded, occupied Brechin for several weeks. The memory of what had happened four months before sent the people fleeing to the country again. This was not the last time that Brechin was to see Montrose. Near the end of June, Montrose's army spent almost a month outside of Brechin, which kept the people in constant fear.


When Robert was 26, two years after the havoc wrought by war, Brechin was plunged into the horror of the plague. It was a real time of hardship in Scotland. Bad harvests, death and famine. The civil war was still raging and the movements of the armies and their hosts of followers contributed to the spread of the plague that swept the south of Scotland. In Brechin, with the continual passing of the military forces, both friendly and hostile, the plague had broken out in the spring of 1647.

This was the age of dirt and squalor of wretched and poorly ventilated houses and primitive hygiene and sanitation. The streets in the 1600s were the recognized refuse heaps of the community. Here accumulated, unheeded and undisturbed, the filth and refuse of the neighboring households. From time to time in the church records, there are indications of payments to clean up the approaches to the church and the churchyard. The sanctity of the churchyard was not rated high in this age and the Session repeatedly enacted rules that "the Kirkyard be nowise polluted or defiled either by excrement of man or beast."

There were no services in the church after April 7, 1647 and all Session meetings were discontinued for seven months. The houses infected by the plague were closed and not reoccupied until the "cleansers" had cleaned the rooms and furniture, and boiled the foul clothes and bedding in cauldrons. The unfortunate victims were removed outside the bounds of Brechin and lodged in wooden huts specially built for them.

At the beginning of November, it was decided to re-open the church. The Session provided the money to have the church cleaned. Much of this work was done at night by candlelight and the whole interior of the church was washed and swept down. On Sunday, November 7, 1647, services resumed in the church with a sorely depleted congregation. The gratitude of those who had survived the misery of the last seven months was shown in the offering collected that day. During the weeks that followed, the Session received many offerings from the relatives of those who had died.

Near the end of July 1648, the plague broke out again, but this time the duration was short. The church closed again the first Sunday in August but then re-opened a few weeks later. By October, the town had recovered from the second scare.

During the time of the plague, the parish of Brechin saw over two third of its population carried off by the illness. It was an appalling tragedy for a small community of under a thousand people.

War Again - The Third English Civil War (1649-1651)

In January 1649, when Robert was 28, the Scots proclaimed Charles II their king. On January 1, 1651, he was crowned King of Scots at Scone, the last coronation on Scottish soil. Charles was committed to the Covenant and this was considered by the English as a declaration of war.

On June 26, 1650, the English Parliament appointed Oliver Cromwell, Captain-General and Commander-in-Chief of the English army, with orders to invade Scotland and put down the rebellion.

To meet the invasion, the Scottish Parliament issued a proclamation for raising an army. A Scottish army of 27,000 foot and 5,000 horse were called up. The magistrates of Brechin were called upon to supply their quota of recruits. Among those recruits was Robert Junkins, now 29. It would be the last time Robert would see his home or the Brechin Cathedral, which had been the major influence in his life for the first 29 years.

Brechin also was once again responsible for providing "transient quarters" for troops on their way for final mustering under David Leslie.

There was good material among the officers at Leslie's command but he could not make use of all his assets. An intolerant church was in power and was suspicious of the fighters and might exclude all who did not sign the Covenant. This also excluded a lot of the best fighting men and all of Scotland, the Highland clans. Leslie took up a defensive position at Musselburgh in front of Edinburgh, the capitol. The land between Edinburgh and the English border was burned with all the crops destroyed and all stock moved north. This meant that the English army would have to be provisioned by sea somewhere between Berwick and Leith. An advance base was established at Dunbar.

On Monday, July 22, Cromwell and his army crossed the border of Scotland from Berwick. The army, often called "Ironsides," consisted of 10,500 foot soldiers under Major-General Lambert and 5,500 horse under Lieutenant-General Fleetwood. Most of Lambert's foot soldiers were equipped with new flintlock rifles, which played an important role in the ensuing battles. Cromwell could see the beacon fires across the Lammuir Hills, warning Edinburgh of his coming.

By Friday, Cromwell had picked up supplies from his ships at Dunbar and on Sunday, July 28, he met David Leslie's whole army at Musselburgh, four miles from the capitol, Edinburgh. For a week, Cromwell tried to seize a position on high ground but failed. Western gales and floods forced him to fall back to Dunbar on Monday, August 5.

A week later, on August 12, Cromwell had replenished his supplies and was back at Musselburgh. There were two weeks of maneuvering and stalemates and on Friday, August 30, Cromwell's army reached Dunbar.

The Battle of Dunbar

Excerpt from Robert Junkins at Dunbar by Alan D. Junkins; published in JFA Newsletter no. 6, Summer 1992

On Monday, July 22nd, Cromwell crossed the border from Berwick. He could see the beacon fires across the Lammermuir Hills warning Edinburgh of his coming. By Friday, he had picked up supplies from his ships at Dunbar and on Sunday, July 28th, he met David Leslie's whole army at Musselburgh, four miles from the capitol, Edinburgh. For a week, Cromwell tried to seize a position on high ground but failed. Western gales and floods forced Cromwell to fall back to Dunbar on Monday, August 5th.

A week later, on August 12, he had replenished his supplies and was back at Musselburgh. There were two weeks of maneuvering and stalemate and on Friday the 30th, Cromwell's council of war decided to fall back to Dunbar again and fortify a base there. Sunday, September 1st, Cromwell's army reached Dunbar. The Scots did not pursue vigorously because of their disinclination to fight on the Sabbath but by the end of the day they had maneuvered the English into a trap from which they could not retreat, and where, if they fought, it would be at odds which would spell certain disaster. The most that Cromwell could do was to fortify Dunbar and trust the sea for his supplies.

David Leslie had blocked their escape to the south and occupied the high ground of the Doon Hills around Dunbar. He hoped that the English would only halt for a night at Dunbar and then continue their march to the south, in which case he intended to fall on their rear from the Doon. Sunday night had been difficult on the Doon for it rained all night and the men had no tents. Leslie was anxious about his supplies for everything had to be brought from Edinburgh. He could not continue indefinitely perched on the Doon.

Monday, September 2, 1650

Monday morning, the Scots began their descent and Robert Junkins was among the Highlanders. It rained all that day. During the afternoon, it became clear to Cromwell that the Scots were astir and were slowly moving down the hill. By four o'clock in the afternoon, there was no doubt that Leslie was preparing for battle. Leslie was drawing up most of his troops on the gentle slopes to the south and east of Cromwell to prevent an escape during the night, which meant an attack in the early morning.

After a conference with his commanders, Monk, Lambert and Fleetwood, Olive Cromwell decided to forestall the Scots by an attack before dawn. It was a wild night, cold and wet and gusty, and the moon did not show itself. The Scots' position was the outfield and infields of the two farms of the Doon and they spent a night of misery crouching among the oat sheaves. Many of the officers left their men and sought shelter. About two in the morning, the order was passed to the foot soldiers to extinguish their matches except for their file leaders — a dangerous economy in the face of so near an enemy, but probably the rain had already extinguished many. Matches were cords or fuses used to fire the priming of match-lock guns. Flintlock guns were more practical, their spark being available on a moment's notice but they were new and in short supply with the Scots.

About four o'clock, the moment had come. The English guns opened on the far right and under cover, a small body of horse crossed the Brock ravine and attacked the Scottish left. Robert Junkins, like all the others, had almost forgotten what it was like to be dry. He struggled from a deep slumber and hastily unwrapped his musket, which he had been trying to keep dry under his plaids. Those with match-locks ran about seeking a light from those too few whose matches had not been extinguished. Pikemen milled this way and that trying to form ranks and gunners crawled from beneath their weapons to fumble with shot and charges. Everywhere there was utter confusion.

On the right wing near the highway, came a thundering clash of metal on metal. Robert Junkins could make out a mass of English horsemen and a tremendous wave of weapons pressing on the Scottish army. The onrushing horse halted and then fell back. The English were beaten. A few moments later, the English were ridding forward again and the Scottish calvary moved to clash with them shouting "The Covenant! The Covenant!" Highlanders and Lowlanders shouted their defiance.

Robert moved down the hill over wet grass and through mud, side by side with the men of his clan. The Scottish officers shouted commands, striving to make themselves heard above the din. Leslie's forces churned in utter chaos. Flashes of fire from the match-locks, bursts of smoke, and the thunder of fieldpieces as artillery and infantry fired into the milling Scots. Robert heard shrieks of pain all around him. Some men surged forward and others backward, tripping over the fallen and slain. Never in his blackest nightmares had Robert pictured such a frightful pandemonium.

By six o'clock in the morning, the battle was over. Leslie's horse troops were driven back on his foot soldiers, and they were penned between the enemy and the upper ravine of the burn. The Scots were a helpless mob, many had never come into action. Bewildered souls they must have been for their Lord had strangely forsaken them.

Three thousand Scots were slain and not more than thirty English. Ten thousand prisoners were taken, two hundred colors, and the whole of the Scottish baggage and artillery. The wounded were released, but Robert Junkins, along with five thousand others were dispatched to Haselrig, the governor of Newcastle. They sat on the battlefield all the rest of the morning and the early afternoon. In the middle of the afternoon, they were formed into lines of two on the Great Road to Berwick. One mile south of Cove Harbor, they spent the first night between the road and the cliffs that went down to the sea. From there you could see Bass Rock and the conical shape of North Berwick Law.

The March of Shame or Durham Death March

In addition to the 3,000 Scots killed at Dunbar, 10,000 were taken prisoner. Some English historians say Oliver Cromwell lost only 40 men killed and wounded. But that has to be taken with a grain of salt, given the intensity of the first hour of fighting. After the battle ended, Cromwell simply could not handle 10,000 prisoners. About 5,000 Scots described in an English document as "those wounded and those fatigued by flight" were released almost immediately on parole. But Cromwell ordered 5,100 Scottish soldiers marched south from Dunbar into captivity in England as quickly as possible, fearing the Scots might organize a counter-attack aimed at freeing and re-arming the prisoners.

The English also had big plans for the prisoners they kept. A document from the English Calendar of State Papers issued during the period spells out the disposition of "Scotch rebel prisoners." Initially, the plan was to "execute all ministers and officers." That was subsequently changed to execution of one in 10 "of the common sort …one forced to confession …the rest sent to the plantations." There is no evidence of arbitrary executions. Instead, the Scots were all to be enslaved, sold and deported to Ireland or across the Atlantic for indentured servitude in the New World colonies. Fighting men from the losing side had suddenly become beasts of burden, a marketable commodity on a grand scale. But first came what could well be called the Durham Death March, a disgusting stain on English military and social history generally glossed over by British historians then and now.

In the hours that followed the battle, Cromwell put his Newcastle commander Sir Arthur Haselrigge, Member of Parliament for Leicester, in charge of the prisoners.

The English foot soldiers and cavalrymen escorting the prisoners had little food, eating mainly Scottish supplies captured from Leslie’s baggage train. There was virtually nothing to feed the Scots. Civilians along the route occasionally risked English vengeance and tossed them bread or whatever else could be spared, which wasn’t much after a summer of fighting in the area. The prisoners quenched their thirst from puddles of rainwater and fetid ditches. They began dying — first from wounds, then from sickness, and later starvation. It turned into a death march.

Wednesday, September 4, 1650

The brutal march of 118 miles south to the English cathedral city of Durham began at the crack of dawn on September 4th. Scots escaped in droves along the road to Berwick and their English captors offered those recaptured no quarter, killing dozens of the unarmed escapees.

At noon they were fed sacks of horse fodder. That night, they stopped near the moors. There were divided into two groups and slept in the rough grass between the road and the sea.

Thursday, September 5

By mid-morning, they reached the edge of Berwick at the Lamberton Toll. Three miles further they traveled to the Scots Gate at Berwick-Upon-Tweed, and onto English soil, never to see Scotland again. When they reached Berwick, they had marched 28 miles. Across the fifteen-arch stone bridge spanning the Tweed to Tweedmouth. Each prisoner was given three hard biscuits and a measure of peas. In the afternoon, the two groups were merged together again. That night they lay in a field beyond Tweekmouth. It rained all night.

Sunday, September 8

In the afternoon, the long lines of prisoners came in sight of Alnwick Castle. There had been no food distributed since the peas and biscuits four days before. They were penned up in the middle bailey of the castle. Many had died during the past four days.

Monday, September 9

The prisoners spent the day in Alnwick Castle. There was no food. More died. It rained all afternoon.

Tuesday, September 10 through Saturday, September 14

There was no food and prisoners continued to die. By Thursday, more than one third of the prisoners had died. By Saturday, they'd spent seven days in Alnwick with no food.

Sunday, September 15

The gates of Alnwick opened and the 2,500 remaining prisoners of the original 5,000 were each given one biscuit and then forced to continue the march south.

Tuesday, September 17

In the afternoon they reached the town of Morpeth. Beyond the center of town they were turned into a large walled garden, which ran down to the River Wansbeck. The ground inside the garden was covered with cabbages. Fresh green cabbage! Before long, the ground was bare, without a green leaf to be seen. The Scots had not had anything green to eat in 15 days. Nothing but a few biscuits, some horse fodder, and water. Now, they consumed the raw cabbages, leaves and roots. During the night, there was the sound of retching and groaning in all parts fo the garden. Men vomited or screamed that their bowels had fair dissolved.

Wednesday, September 18

By morning, more men had died from eating the raw cabbage. The march continued. Many more died on the road. In the afternoon, they reached Newcastle and went through the gates built upon part of the old Roman wall. They were locked up in a great stone church, St. Nicholas' Church. Food was distributed, three biscuits per man. More prisoners died among the pews, and many others were unable to continue the march the following morning. They were left behind to die.

Thursday, September 19

The sky was overcast. People lined the street, shouting, jeering and pelting the Scots with rotted vegetables and other filth. At the bridge crossing the Tyne, the crowds thinned to a few sullen onlookers.

At darkness, they reached the River Wear and the town of Durham. Through the marketplace they marched, turned right up the steep hill to a large open place. Beyond was a vast Norman church, Durham Cathedral.

That last agonizing stretch from Newcastle down to Durham, left a trail of dying men and corpses stiffening in the early fall frost along the side of the road. Approximately 1,500 prisoners were lost during the march. Some escaped, but most died of disease and wounds or were killed by their captors while attempting to flee home to Scotland.

Friday, September 20

Thirty more had died during the night but this day they were fed great hampers of biscuits and hogs-heads of water.

Saturday, September 21

Sixty men died of bloody flux.

Sunday, September 22

One hundred and twenty more died of bloody flux.

Monday, September 23

At noon, the English brought in baskets of coal for fires and large iron pots of thick bubbling stew. A wooden bucketful for each six men.

Wednesday, September 25

Twelve Scottish weavers were taken out at the request of the Mayor of Durham.

Thursday, September 26

Forty men were taken for the saltworks at Shields and forty more for laborers.

Friday, September 27

An officer called for all Highlanders to step forward. An order had come from the Council of War in London to deliver "one hundred and fifty Highlander Scot prisoners to Augustine Walker in London, to be shipped from Newcastle to London with all possible speed."

The Scots were marched north again to Newcastle, to a quay at the river's edge and herded aboard a ship.

Saturday, September 28

At dawn, the ship sailed for London with Robert Junkins on board.

Monday, November 11, 1650

The ship "Unity" sailed from London under the command of Augustine Walker with 150 Scots bound for the Massachusetts Colony.
They were to be sold as indentured servants, that is essentially as slaves for a period.

Research on "Unity" and the 150 Scots is at Unity Scotts

Indentured Servitude

Valentine Hill lived in Durham, New Hampshire. He was the largest land owner in the area. In 1649 he built a house on the north side of the Oyster River, near the site of his saw mill. Later extended, this fine timber dwelling survives to this day. Since 1998, it has served as the Three Chimneys Inn & ffrost Sawyer Tavern, a B&B and restaurant at 17 Newcastle Road.

In 1651, Hill went to Boston and purchased seven of the Scots brought over on the "Unity" to work in his mill and on his 500 acre farm. One of the seven was Robert Junkins who thus spent the first seven years of his life in the colonies in Durham, New Hampshire. Also among the seven were Micum McIntire and Andrew Rankin, who came with Robert to York after their period of servitude.

Life in York, ME

By 1661, Robert had settled in York county, Maine, for in July of that year he signed a petition as a resident of York. A Court record of 12 November 1667, shows that he owned land as a bondsman. With an original holding of six acres, he built his homestead at Scotland on a rise overlooking the York river where he retained command of his farm lands and orchards for the remainder of his life, adding to his land holding from time to time - 20 acres on 24th March 1680, a further 32 acres in the same year, and another parcel for an orchard and barn on 10 June 1681. Before 1670 he married Sarah Smyth of Cape Neddick. They had three sons, Joseph (b. 1672), Alexander (b. 1675) and Daniel (b. circa 1680). The cradle in which they were rocked (and their children and grandchildren) is now in the Old Gaol Museum of the Old York Historic Society.

Robert's will is dated 2 March 1696 and, with his mark at the bottom, is lodged in the York County Court House in Alfred, Maine. It was witnessed by John Hancock, Arthur Bragdon, Jr. and Joseph Pray in 1697, this John Hancock being the grandfather of the John Hancock who signed the American Declaration of Independence. On 2 January 1699, the will was recorded, and in November of the same year he died. Robert's wife Sarah inherited and when she died on 20 March 1718, it was Alexander2 who inherited the homestead, for his older brother Joseph had been killed by Indians near the Garrison house on 2 April 1711.

Robert Junkins was born in Scotland and he died at Scotland. He was assigned to enslavement at Durham and he worked in bondage in Durham. But the Scotlands and the Durhams were an ocean apart, and so may be seen in the individual life of one christened in Brechin Cathedral the tumult, dislocation, anguish, near death, enslavement and renewed hope which those who could count themselves fortunate among Scots experienced in his times.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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