Covenanter's Grave - Atlas Obscura

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Covenanter's Grave

Cupar, Scotland

Beneath this headstone lie the severed body parts of three individuals who were caught up in a bloody period of Scottish history. 


From internal battles to foreign incursions, Scotland has seen its fair share of conflicts and disputes. It is perhaps their strained relationship with their neighbors to the south, the English, that has seen the most bloodshed.

There is perhaps no better example to showcase man’s barbarity than a period known as the Killing Times. This was a religious war that lasted for roughly 10 years towards the end of the 17th century. An estimated 18,000 Scottish citizens lost their lives for upholding their belief that the ruling monarch was not in a higher position of authority than God.

Of the many examples of martyrs who gave up their lives for the cause of covenanting (the belief that God was the supreme power), perhaps it could be best epitomized by three individuals: Laur Hay, Andrew Pitulloch, and David Hackston. The first two were residents of Cupar and were executed in 1681 by beheading. The latter, being implicated in the murder of the Archbishop of St. Andrew, had his hands removed after his hanging in 1680, because he refused to swear allegiance to King Charles II of England.

Even though all three men met their demise in Edinburgh, their appendages were sent to be buried in the county of Fife, as a warning to other Covenanters and to suppress any further uprisings after the murder of James Sharp, Archbishop of St. Andrews. Due to the ravages of time and weather, their headstone is not very legible, it reads: “Here lie interred the Heads of LAUR HAY and ANDREW PITULLOCH who suffered martyrdom at EDINr. July 16th 1681 for adhering to the word of GOD & Scotland covenanted work and Reformation and also one of the hands of DAVID HACKSTON of Rathillot who was most cruelly murdered at EDINr. July 30th 1680or the same cause.”

 The other side bears this inscription: “Our persecutors filled with rage / Their brutish fury to aswage / Took heads and hands of martyrs off / That they might be the peoples scoff / They Hackstons body cutt asunder / And set it up a worlds wonder / In several places to proclaim / These monsters gloryd in their shame” 

Know Before You Go

The headstone can be located to the south side of the old church tower in the cemetery, near the boundary wall.

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October 6, 2023

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