Scotland’s Alcatraz…………..The Bass Rock

Scotland,s Alcatraz…….The Bass Rock

Johnny on the Bass Rock

Having spoke in length to Johnny and another en-lightened friend shall we say, i have decided to delve into the history of ‘The Bass Rock’ dubbed by some as ‘Scotland’s Alcatraz’. In conversation with both of my friends, i found it strange that i personally had not heard of this fascinating piece of  Scottish history, and the more i find out about this place the more fascinating it gets.

Johnny is in fact using it as inspiration for his second book called ‘Scot’s on the Rock’s’ which is about the penal history of Scotland and ultimately jail breaks a few of which he was involved in.

The ‘Bass Rock’ present day is a world famous bird sanctuary championed by Sir David_Attenborough none the less, Sir David actually says it could be a contender for a ‘Wonder of the World’, more can be read about this in the following link https://www.scotsman.com/news-2-15012/is-the-bass-rock-a-wonder-of-the-world-i-m-sure-it-is-says-sir-david-attenborough-1-816593 .


In years gone past though it wasn’t just birds who resided on the rock,Covenanters  were regularly imprisoned on the ‘Bass Rock’ regularly, Alexander Peden being one of the highest profile of the time.

Pedens Grave in Cumnock Ayrshire

The story of this man is both inspirational and sad and i will leave it up to Johnny to tell you this amazing story in his forthcoming book, if you are interested though the following link is to Alexander Peden’s wiki page, Alexander_Peden .


The rock wasoriginally owned by the Lauder family, the Bass was used as a refuge to the future King James I, who would then go on to use the castle on the rock to imprison his enemies in the 15th century,these enemies included Walter Stewart, the Earl of Atholl and the king’s cousin, who would go on to be executed for treason.

The Lauder’s  would eventually lose the Bass rock during the  invasion of Cromwell’s army when Charles I claimed it as Royal property and turned the castle into a jail.

Scotlands alcatraz

The years 1672 and 1688, saw about 40 political and religious prisoners die in its dungeons, many were Presbyterian ministers.

Leading Covenanters including the afore-mentioned Prophet Peden were imprisoned on the rock. Following his sentence, Peden was ordered to be taken to America in a transport ship heading to the plantations; however, when the ship captain heard he had been sentenced for religious reasons, he released him and Peden lived out the rest of his life in a cave, close to where i live i Cumnock Ayrshire.

The Bass rock could well have carried on taking in prisoners; but, in 1691, during the reign of William and Mary, four Jacobite inmates carried out a daring escape from their dungeon cells, capturing the fortress while its garrison was engaged in unloading its cargo.

The men went on to  hold the Bass for three years, defying all attempts by Government forces to retake it.

With help from supply ships from France, they even carried out raids on the Fife and Lothian coast’s until an effective blockade starved them into submission.

They were so successful in holding the fortress that when they negotiated handing it back they  walked away free men.

The prison remained in use for a few more years until it was demolished at the turn of the 18th century and the rock sold to Sir Hugh Dalrymple.

These days as i all-ready stated the rock is a bird sanctuary but its history is undeniably fascinating and i look forward to Johnny’s forthcoming book.

Anyway i hope you enjoyed this short article and subscribe and share for similar content.

Thank-you, Danny



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