Richard Cameron was born near Leuchars around 1647 and went to university at St Andrews before becoming a teacher. In 1678 he was licensed to preach and large crowds came to hear him, but he soon got in trouble for preaching against ministers who had accepted the indulgences. He then went to Holland for a few months, where he was ordained as a minister by members of the Scottish church there.
He came back to Scotland two months after the battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679 to find that the ministers had stopped preaching in the fields as they saw it as too dangerous for both them and the people. Cameron however saw it as his duty to preach the gospel no matter what might happen, and preached at a conventicle in November. 3,000 people came to hear God’s word preached. The next Lord’s Day, even more people came to hear. Despite his life being in constant danger, Cameron kept on preaching.
On 22 June 1680, exactly a year after the defeat at Bothwell Bridge, Cameron and twenty horsemen rode into the town of Sanquhar, where they sung a psalm and read out a document known as the Sanquhar declaration. In it, Cameron and his followers, rejected the authority of Charles II because he had broken the covenant and ruled badly. They also, as representatives of the nation of Scotland as well as the church, declared war on him as an enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A month later, 120 government dragoons caught up with Cameron and 62 of his followers at Ayrsmoss. Before the battle, Cameron prayed, ‘Lord, spare the green and take the ripe’. Cameron’s men fought ‘like madmen’ - and 28 of the dragoons were killed, compared to only 9 Covenanters. But in the end the dragoons won and Cameron and his brother Michael lay dead. The dragoons cut off Cameron’s head and hands and in an act of terrible cruelty took them to his father who was in prison in Edinburgh, and asked him if they knew them.
Old Allan Cameron replied:
“I know them, I know them. They are my son’s, my dear son’s. It is the Lord. Good is the will of the Lord, who cannot wrong me nor mine, but has made goodness and mercy to follow us all our days”
Maurice Grant, The Lion of the Covenant: the story of Richard Cameron (Darlington, 1997).
Patrick, Six saints of the Covenant, ed. D. H. Fleming (2 vols, London, 1901)
John Howie, ‘Richard Cameron’ in The Scots Worthies (Edinburgh, 2001 ), pp 421-9
DSCHT: Ayrsmoss; Cameron, Richard
A. S. Wayne Pearce, ‘Cameron, Richard (d. 1680)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004