The Mures of Auchindrane

A long flourishing family in the south of Ayrshire. In 1611, John Mure of Auchindrane was accused of the murder of a retainer of Kennedy of Colzean, committed where there were no witnesses, but which was discovered in a remarkable manner. The corpse of the murdered man had been buried in Girvan churchyard, but the laird of Colzean dreaming of him in his sleep, caused his body to be taken up, and insisted on all who lived near to come and touch the corpse. All did so but Auchindrane and his son, whom nobody suspected, till his young daughter, Mary Mure, seeing the crown, went in among them, and when she came near the dead body, the blood sprang from it, on which Auchindrane was apprehended and put to the torture. The Auchindrane Tragedy,’ founded on this murder, is one of the dramatic compositions of Sir Walter Scott.

MURE, SIR WILLIAM, of Rowallan, a poet of the 17th century, was born in 1594. He was the eldest son of Sir William Mure of Rowallan, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Montgomery of Hazlehead, and sister of Alexander Montgomery, author of ‘The Cherrie and the Slae.’ He obtained an excellent classical education, and in his early years began to cultivate a taste for poetry. The ‘Historie’ of his family above quoted says of him: “This Sir William was pious and learned, and had an excellent vein in poesie; he delyted much in building and planting.” Before his twentieth year he attempted a poetical version of the story of Dido and Eneas, from Virgil. In the ‘Muse’s Welcome,’ a collection of poems and addresses made to King James on his visiting Scotland in 1617, there is an address by Mure of Rowallan. In 1628, he published a translation, in English sapphics, of Boyd of Trochrig’s beautiful Latin poem, ‘Hecatombe Christiana,’ together with a small original piece called ‘Doomesday.’ His principal work is his ‘True Crucifixe for true Catholikes,’ published at Edinburgh in 1629.

For some years afterwards he seems to have been employed on a version of the Psalms, which was much wanted in Scotland at that time. The old English version was not popular; and the one executed by King James and Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, subsequently earl of Stirling, was so disliked that the bishops would not press it upon the church. King James’ version was not sanctioned by the Assembly, and some expressions in it gave offence to the people, such as the sun being called “The lord of light,” and the moon, “The pale lady of the night.” Though this version was rejected, still many wished that the old one should be improved, or a better one substituted in its place. Several gentlemen attempted particular psalms; but a version of the whole was undertaken by Sir W. Mure of Rowallan, which he seems to have finished in 1639.

Principal Baillie, who attended the Westminster Assembly, as a commissioner from the Church of Scotland, in a letter, dated at London, January 1st, 1644, says, “I wish I had Rowallan’s Psalter here, for I like it better than any I have yet seen.” It does not, however, appear that Sir William’s version was transmitted to the Assembly. That of Mr. Rous, which was recommended by the English parliament, was finally adopted, and has ever since been used in Scotland; but the committee appointed in 1650 to revise Mr. Rous’s version, were instructed to avail themselves of the help of Sir William Mure’s. (Historic and Descent of the House of Rowallane, pp. 92-94.)

During the civil war, Sir William Mure took arms on the popular side. In the first army raised against the king, he commanded a company in the Ayrshire regiment, and was a member of the convention of 1643, by which the Solemn League and covenant was ratified with England. He was a member of the ‘Committee of warre’ for the sheriffdom of Ayr in 1644, and in the beginning of that year he accompanied the Scots army which marched to the aid of the parliamentary cause, and was wounded at the battle of Longmarston Moor, July 2. He was also present at the storming of Newcastle, in the following month. He died in the end of 1657.

Specimens of his poems, many of which are still in manuscript, will be found in Lyle’s ‘Ancient Ballads and Songs,’ published at London in 1827.

Sir William Mure was twice married, first, in 1615, when only twenty-one, to Anna, daughter of Dundas of Newliston, by whom he had five sons and six daughters; and, secondly, to Dame Jane Hamilton, Lady Duntreath, by whom he had two sons and two daughters. His second son, Captain Alexander Mure, was slain in the war against the rebels in Ireland; another of them, Patrick, the youngest son of the first marriage, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1622. That title is now extinct.