Although not a story from history that you might remember from your school days, the Battle of Rullion Green near Penicuik played a huge part in the history of our country, and is seen as a decisive step towards establishing Presbyterianism as the form of governance of the Church of Scotland and the supremacy of local democracy over the divine right of Kings.

Roger Hipkin, secretary  of Penicuik Community Development Trust,  pictured at the site of the Battle of Rullion Green.
Roger Hipkin, secretary of Penicuik Community Development Trust, pictured at the site of the Battle of Rullion Green.

On November 28, 1666, the bloody Battle of Rullion Green in the Pentlands took place, the culmination of the ‘Pentland Rising’, which saw the rout and slaughter of about 900 Covenanter rebels by government troops under TamDalyell of the Binns.

Now, 350 years on, Penicuik Community Development Trust will display a mounted exhibition at Penicuik Library about the battle, following its appearance in Penicuik Town Hall to commemorate the anniversary itself last week.

Roger Hipkin, secretary of Penicuik Community Development Trust, hopes new and old local residents can learn from the exhibition.

He said: “It was a long while ago, fortunately the people who now own the field and have a cottage next to it have become interested in the battle and they are going to lay a pathway across the field to get to the site.

“It’s just off the A702 not far from the top of Mauricewood Road, so probably just a mile and a half from the centre of Penicuik. It’s not really far from the Flotterston Pub. Probably half a mile over the main road.

“The battle is known about in Penicuik. However, there is a high proportion of people here though that work in Edinburgh and don’t have much to do with the town, which is a shame, so we are trying to give them something that would interest them.

“Local people have probably heard about the battle but don’t know too much about it. The main road here is called Rullion Road, so it’s there in folk history. But they probably don’t know what it’s all about. Which is part of the reason we have put on the exhibition.”

Roger explained that the Trust continues to look into Penicuik’s past, while trying to help towards its future.

He added: “I have been interested in local history for a long while. So I knew odd bits about the battle. It was a case of putting it all together for this exhibition. It took about a week.

“I have got a lot of books about local history which I used for this, as well as information from the web.

“I believe it is important to keep local history alive and I think exhibitions like this will help do that.

“We put up exhibitions every week at the community cafe and this was one of them.

“At Penicuik Print (run by the Trust) we have been printing or re-printing historic books. We print a tourist’s guide to Penicuik from 1900, it’s quite interesting.

“The Trust is concerned with bringing more life into the town and attracting tourists and investment.”

The Pentland Rising was in the context of the long-running government campaign to impose Episcopalianism upon Scotland.

The uprising began in the Ayrshire town of Dalry. The long march of the Covenanters started with the rescue of an old man in the town from soldiers tormenting him.

The group gathered followers en route to Dumfries, where they captured the military commander appointed to suppress Dumfries and Galloway. However, they failed to get support in central Scotland and found the gates of Edinburgh barred.

They were retreating back to the west when overtaken by the Royalist army under General Dalyell at Rullion Green.

From a peak of perhaps 3000 men the force had diminished by half at Colinton, and then further dispersed as the group headed home towards Galloway. The rebels included experienced professional soldiers as well as ordinary folk, and were commanded by Colonel James Wallace of Auchens. They decided to hold a parade and review by Colonel Wallace at Rullion Green in the Pentland Hills. General Tam Dalyell of the Binns was with a force in Currie, and cut through the Pentland Hills to confront the rebels and crush this uprising. The survivors were treated with cruelty; 15 were hanged, drawn and quartered, and several, including two boys of 18, were tortured first with the boot.

Insurrection and suppression continued. After the Covenanters’ final defeat at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679, prisoners were penned up in the open air in Greyfriars Kirkyard for five months on starvation rations before execution or transportation as slaves.