Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mackail, Hugh

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MACKAIL, HUGH (1640?–1666), Scottish martyr, was born about 1640 at Liberton, near Edinburgh. At an early age he went to reside with an uncle, Hugh Mackail, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and entered the university, where he distinguished himself, graduating, as the records show, in 1658 'sub M. Thoma Crafordio.' Shortly afterwards he became chaplain and tutor in the family of Sir James Stuart of Coltness and Goodtrees, then lord provost of Edinburgh. In 1661, being then in his twenty-first year, he was licensed by the presbytery of Edinburgh, and afterwards preached several times with much success. A sermon which he delivered in the High Church, Edinburgh, in September 1662, in which he declared that 'the church of Scotland had been persecuted by an Ahab on the throne, a Haman in the state, and a Judas in the church,' gave such offence that a party of horse was sent to apprehend him. He escaped, however, and, after lying concealed in his father's house for some time, retired into Holland, where he improved his time by studying for several years at a Dutch university. Then, returning to Scotland, he lived chiefly at his father's house, until in November 1666 he joined a rising of the covenanters. After nine days' marching, however, his weak health obliged him to leave the insurgents, and on his way back to Liberton he was arrested, carried to Edinburgh, and committed to the Tolbooth. He was several times brought before the council and tortured with the boot. Burnet erroneously states that he died under this treatment, and the assertion has been copied by the biographer of Lord William Russell (i. 169). Finally, after trial, despite the efforts of his cousin, Matthew Mackail [q. v.], who interceded with James Sharp, archbishop of St. Andrews, on his behalf, Hugh was hanged at the market-cross of Edinburgh on 22 Dec. 1666, amid 'such a lamentation,' says Kirkton, 'as was never known in Scotland before, not one dry cheek upon all the street, or in all the numberless windows in the market-place.' According to MS. Jac. V. 7. 22, in the Advocates' Library (quoted in the 'Memoirs of William Veitch,' p. 87 n.), 'immediately after the execution of the forementioned four men there came a letter from the king, discharging the executing of moe; but the Bishop of St. Andrews kept it up till Mr. Hew was executed,' Mackail behaved with great fortitude on the scaffold, addressing the crowd with singular impressiveness. He was buried in Greyfriars churchyard. Wodrow describes him as 'universally beloved, singularly pious, and of very considerable learning.'

[Scots Worthies, i. 309; Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 2-5; Memoirs of William Veitch, pp. 35-8.]

T. H.