Crawford, Thomas (1530?-1603) (DNB00)

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CRAUFORD or CRAUFURD, THOMAS (1530?–1603), of Jordanhill, captor of the castle of Dumbarton, was the sixth son of Lawrence Crawford of Kilbirnie, ancestor of the Viscounts Garnock, and his wife Helen, daughter of Sir Hugh Campbell, ancestor of the Earls of Loudoun. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Pinkie in 1547, but some time afterwards obtained his liberty by paying a ransom. In 1550 he went to France, where he entered the service of Henry II, under the command of James, second earl of Arran. Returning to Scotland with Queen Mary in 1561, he afterwards became one of the gentlemen of Darnley, the queen's husband, and seems to have shared his special confidence. When the queen set out in January 1566–7 to visit Darnley during his illness at Glasgow, Crawford was sent by Darnley to make his excuses for his inability to wait on her in person. The particulars of the succeeding interview forced upon Darnley by the appearance of the queen in his bedchamber were immediately afterwards communicated to Crawford by Darnley, who asked his advice regarding her proposal to take him to Craigmillar. Crawford (according to a deposition made by him before the commissioners at York (State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, p. 177) on 9 Dec. 1568, which is the sole authority regarding the particulars of the interview) gave it as his opinion that she treated him too like a prisoner, in which Darnley concurred, although expressing his resolve to place his life in her hands, and to go with her though ‘she should murder him.’ After the murder Crawford joined the association for the defence of the young king's person and the bringing of the murderers to trial. Inspired doubtless by devotion to his dead master, he showed himself one of the most formidable enemies of his murderers, and although playing necessarily a subordinate part, perhaps no other person was so directly instrumental in finally overthrowing the power of the queen's party.

Acting in concert with the regent, Moray, Crawford suddenly presented himself at a meeting of the council which was being held at Stirling, 3 Sept. 1569, and, requesting audience on a matter of urgent moment, fell down on his knees and demanded justice on Maitland of Lethington and Sir James Balfour as murderers of the king (Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 147). Asserting that the crime with which he charged them was high treason, he protested that Lethington, who was present, should not be admitted to bail, and after a violent debate the council agreed to commit him, Balfour being subsequently apprehended at his residence at Monimail. The stratagem carried out so boldly by Crawford proved, however, abortive, for Lethington was shortly afterwards rescued by Kirkaldy of Grange, and Balfour obtained his release by bribing Wood, the regent's secretary.

After the election of the Earl of Lennox, father of Darnley, as regent, 13 July 1570, Crawford became an officer of his guard. At the request of the regent he undertook to make an attempt to surprise and capture the castle of Dumbarton, held by the followers of the queen, and commanding a free access to France. Situated on a precipitous rock rising from the Firth of Clyde to a height of 200 feet, with a spring of water on its summit, and united to the mainland merely by a narrow marsh, it was only by famine or by surprise that it could be captured, and both methods seemed equally vain. The feat of Crawford, while thus displaying almost unparalleled daring, was, however, crowned with success, not simply by a happy accident, but chiefly because he thoroughly gauged its difficulties and omitted no precautions. Having secured the assistance of a yeoman of his own who had formerly been a watchman of the castle, and was acquainted both with the nature of the cliffs and the disposition of the guards, he, an hour before sunset on 31 March 1571, set out from Glasgow with a hundred and fifty men, provided with ladders and cords and ‘crawes of iron.’ At Dumbuck, within a mile of the castle, where they were joined by Cunningham of Drumwhassel and Captain Hume with a hundred men, he explained to his followers the nature of the enterprise. With their hackbuts on their backs and their ladders slung between them they then marched forward in single file. It was resolved to climb to the highest point of the castle, from which, on account of its fancied security, the nearest watch was about 120 feet distant. Dawn had begun while they began to climb, but the fogs from the marshes wrapped them round and concealed them as securely as darkness. Crawford, accompanied by his guide, led the way, and after he had overcome the difficulties of the ascent with never-failing ingenuity, they gained the summit just as the sentinel gave the alarm. Rushing in with the cry ‘A Darnley! A Darnley!’ they struck down the few half-naked soldiers whom the alarm had brought out of their barracks, and, seizing the cannon, turned them on the garrison, who offered no further resistance. A considerable number, including Lord Fleming, favoured by the fog made their way out and escaped, but Archbishop Hamilton and De Virac, the French ambassador, were both taken prisoners. Hamilton, five days after his capture, was executed at Stirling, but no one else suffered even imprisonment. To the queen's party the loss of the castle was an irreparable blow, no less than an astounding surprise. The feat, extraordinary even if it had been assisted by treachery, was generally regarded as impossible without it, but in a plain and unaffected account of the affair in a letter to Knox (printed in Richard Bannatyne's Memorials, pp. 106–7) Crawford says: ‘As I live, we haue no maner of intelligence within the hous nor without the hous, nor I haue spoken of befoir.’

During the remainder of the civil war Crawford continued to distinguish himself in all the principal enterprises. He held command of one of the companies of ‘waged souldiers’ (Calderwood, History, iii. 100), which under Morton, concentrated in May at Dalkeith and afterwards encamped at Leith, where, when they had united their forces with those of Lennox, a parliament was held at which sentence of forfeiture was passed against Lethington and others. In September following, when the parliament at Stirling was surprised by a party of horsemen sent by Kirkaldy of Grange, and the regent and others taken prisoners, Crawford, after the Earl of Mar had opened fire on those of the enemy who had gone to spoil the houses and booths, with the assistance of some gentlemen in the castle and a number of the townsfolk, sallied out against the intruders and drove them from the town (Bannatyne, Memorials, p. 184). Most of the captives were at once abandoned, and, although Lennox was assassinated in the struggle, the main purpose of Kirkaldy was thus practically defeated. In July 1572 Crawford had a turn of ill-fortune, being defeated and nearly captured in the woods of Hamilton by some persons in the pay of the Hamiltons, but this, it is said, was owing to the fact that his assailants had been formerly in the service of the regent and were permitted to approach him as friends (ib. p. 237). At the siege of the castle of Edinburgh in 1573 Crawford was appointed with Captain Hume to keep the trenches (Calderwood, History, iii. 281). On 28 May he led the division of the Scots which, with a division of the English, stormed the spur after a desperate conflict of three hours. By its capture Kirkaldy was compelled to come to terms, and it was to Hume and Crawford that he secretly surrendered the castle on the following day (Sir James Melville, Memoirs, p. 255). The fall of the castle extinguished the resistance of the queen's party and ended the civil war.

Crawford in his later years resided at Kersland in the parish of Dalry, of which his second wife, Janet Ker, was the heiress. He granted an annual rent to the university of Glasgow in July 1576, and in 1577 he was elected lord provost of the city. Crawford received the lands of Jordanhill, which his father had bestowed on the chaplainry of Drumry, the grant being confirmed by a charter granted under the great seal, 8 March 1565–6. His important services to James VI were recognised by liberal grants of land at various periods. In September 1575 James VI sent him a letter of thanks for his good service done to him from the beginning of the wars, promising some day to remember the same to his ‘great contentment.’ This he did not fail to do as soon as he assumed the government, for on 28 March 1578 Crawford received a charter under the great seal for various lands in Dalry. On 24 Oct. 1581 he received the lands of Blackstone, Barns, and others in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, as well as an annuity of 200l. Scots, payable out of the religious benefices. Crawford was in command of a portion of the forces with which the Duke of Lennox proposed in August 1582 to seize the protestant lords, a design frustrated by intelligence sent from Bowes, the English ambassador. Crawford died on 3 Jan. 1603, and was buried in the old churchyard, Kilbirnie, where in 1594 he had erected a curious monument to himself and his lady, with the motto ‘God schaw the right,’ which had been granted him by the Earl of Morton for his valour in the skirmish between Leith and Edinburgh (see engraving in Archæological and Historical Collections relating to Ayr and Wigton, ii. 128).

[Crawfurd's Renfrewshire; Burke's Baronetage; Richard Bannatyne's Memorials (Bannatyne Club); Diurnal of Occurrents (Bannatyne Club); Sir James Melville's Memoirs; Calderwood's History of the Church of Scotland, vol. iii.; the Histories of Tytler, Hill Burton, and Froude.]

T. F. H.