We Sign the Covenant & "God Be with You"




Short stories


Young adult

Historical era

English Civil War


Margaret Lyford-Pike


BBC Scotland – ?


We Lived in Drumfyvie


Witch Hunt! (A House with Glass Windows)


Anderson Brothers

"We Sign the Covenant" and ""God Be with You"" are the tenth and eleventh stories in the 1975 collection We Lived in Drumfyvie, originally co-written with producer Margaret Lyford-Pike as episodes of an unidentified children's radioplay series. They are described together on this page because they form a two-part story.

We Sign the Covenant synopsisEdit

Best friends Johnnie Forsyth and Hugh Maitland are inseparable. Johnnie describes Hugh as a born leader, and himself, a born follower. Together they attend St. Andrew's University, shortly after the departure of the notorious young Earl of Montrose, James Graham, whom they view as a kindred spirit.

The summer after their graduation, King Charles and Archbishop Laud introduce a new, Anglicanised service into the Scottish Kirk, to the outrage of the Presbyterian Scots, who acknowledge no earthly authority between congregation and God. Though Drumfyvie's mild-mannered minister Andrew Beaton hopes for compromise between King and Kirk, Johnie's father and Hugh believe that if the King's reforms are forced on the Kirk, it will come to war between Scotland and the King.

That winter, a gathering of civil authorities drafts The National Convenant in the Scottish Parliament, a document setting out the Scots' loyalty to the King but rejection of the English ritual. In February, Drumfyvie assembles to sign their copy of the Covenant, under the eye of Montrose himself. Hugh and Johnnie sign it in their own blood.

Two months later, an order from the King comes down to the Scottish ministers; Andrew Boyd writes his refusal to comply and loses his place as minister of Drumfyvie's kirk. That year the King scrabbles together an army to march on the Scottish border, but does not engage with the army of the Covenant. The next year, Montrose musters an army, and Hugh and Johnnie march with him. They witness his famous crossing of the Tweed in spate as an example to his troops, then set down in Northern England, but never come to battle. The King comes to Edinburgh to negotiate with the Scots, but Montrose is kept in prison on a trumped-up treason charge by Archie Campbell, Earl of Argyll, a bitter rival.

The Covenant gradually becomes a rigid social code directed by fanatics. King Charles goes to war with his English Parliament, and the Army of the Covenant joins Parliament's cause, hoping to impose Presbyterian ritual on the English. Montrose goes south to join the King's cause rather than the unrecognisable Covenant. Hugh rejoins the Army of the Covenant, arguing that the Church and the Kirk cannot coexist, but Johnnie, for the first time, refuses to follow him, still believing in freedom of religion and loyalty to the King. They realise that they cannot even say "God be with you" on their parting, and meet but once more.

"God Be with You" synopsisEdit

Johnnie bides in Drumfyvie, waiting for word that Montrose has raised his banner. After two years, when Archie Campbell has become head of the Covenanters, Montrose and his Irish ally Alasdair MacDonald return to Scotland to recruit an army. Johnnie joins his Blue Bonnets, so named for their badge of blue ribbons, but Montrose arrives too late to the Battle of Marston Moor, which wins all of Northern England for Parliament. The wounded Johnnie hears on his convalescence at home that Hugh was wounded in the battle.

Johnnie leaves his disapproving Covenanter father to rejoin Montrose at Perth, which he and Alasdair have taken, en route to take Aberdeen. At Aberdeen, Montrose sends an envoy including his drummer boy and ward Watt, who is shot by the Covenanters. In reprisal, Montrose orders the only sack of his career.

That autumn, Montrose and Alasdair recruit in the Highlands, but rather than march south to join the King, turn to fight Archie Campbell, the Covenanter leader. But as the King's pay fails to arrive, Montrose's men trickle away home over the winter. Montrose decides to attack the Covenanter stronghold of Dundee before his men completely lose their purpose, and succeeds, but while his men are resting from their victory, the approach of a Covenanter relief forces them to withdraw again in a forced march across country, a feat that becomes famous and attracts new recruits. In three battles over the course of the summer, Montrose wins Scotland for the King, but they miss capturing Archie Campbell.

The King summons Montrose to the Border, but delays, allowing David Leslie and Archie Campbell to reinforce Newcastle. At harvest time, desertions begin again, and Alasdair MacDonald, unconcerned with England, and General Gordon, quarrelling with Montrose, leave his forces. The expected reinforcement from the Earls of Hume and Roxburgh does not materialise at the meeting-place, as they have surrendered to Leslie. Montrose defeatedly turns back to the Highlands.

At Selkirk, the Blue Bonnets camp at a place reported to be free of the enemy, but are attacked by Leslie's forces at first light and completely routed. Johnnie is struck by a spent bullet and loses consciousness. When he comes to on the deserted battlefield, he stumbles across a Covenanter casualty and recognises Hugh, who believes he is dying. Hugh tells him to take his grey uniform coat and escape the search parties rounding up prisoners, but Johnnie refuses to leave him. Hugh sends him to get water, tells him "God be with you," and shoots himself while Johnnie is out of reach. Johnnie takes his coat and escapes to Aberdeen.

Montrose escapes overseas, but returns after the execution of King Charles to raise an army for Charles II. He is betrayed and captured, and hanged as a traitor by Archie Campbell in Edinburgh. Johnnie, the born follower, is left with none to follow.


Dates for We Lived in Drumfyvie are given in the chapter headings, but the 1648 date given for "We Sign the Covenant" is incorrect, possibly an error for 1638 (the signing of the Covenant) or 1642. "We Sign the Covenant" takes place from 1637 to the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, and ""God Be with You"" takes place during the Civil War, from 1644 to 1650.

  • Hugh's 9th birthday: Hugh and Johnnie become blood brothers
  • 1629: Charles I prorogues the English Parliament
  • 1633: Charles I crowned King of Scotland at Holyrood
  • 1637: Hugh and Johnnie return from St. Andrew's.
    • Summer: New Revised Prayer Book introduced.
    • Autumn-winter: The National Covenant drafted
  • 1638
    • February: the Covenant is completed and distributed. Drumfyvie signs
    • April: Scottish ministers reject the King's letter
    • December: General Assembly
  • 1639: Charles's first advance on Scotland
  • 1640: Montrose's march south. English Parliament reconvened.
  • 1641: Charles visits Scotland. Montrose imprisoned.
  • 1642: Charles declares war on the English Parliament. Army of the Covenant joins Parliament. Montrose joins Charles.
  • 1644: Montrose raises an army in Scotland.
    • July 2: Battle of Marston Moor.
    • September 12: battle of Aberdeen
    • Autumn: Alasdair raising Highland troops
    • November: Alasdair and Montrose engage Campbell
    • Winter: forces dwindling
  • 1645
    • Spring: Montrose takes to the heather
    • May: Battle of Aldearn
    • July: Battle of Alford
    • August: Battle of Kilsyth
    • Harvest: desertions.
    • September 12: Montrose encamps at Philliphaugh
    • September 13: Leslie attacks the camp
  • 1649, January 30: Charles I beheaded.
  • 1650: Montrose returns to Scotland, captured
    • May 21: Montrose hanged


  • Johnnie Forsyth, narrator, apothecary's son and apprentice, best friend and follower of Hugh Maitland
  • Hugh Maitland, the Sheriff's son, best friend and leader of Johnnie Forsyth
  • Sir Robert Maitland, Sheriff of Drumfyvie, Hugh's father
  • John Forsyth, surgeon-apothecary, Johnnie's father
  • James Graham, Earl of Montrose, a firebrand
  • King Charles I, High Anglican and high-handed
  • King James VI, inherited the throne of England from Elizabeth
  • Queen Elizabeth, of England
  • Master John Knox, Presbyterian
  • William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Master Andrew Beaton, minister of St. Ninian's, a peacemaker
  • Jenny Geddes, cabbage woman, a noted throwing arm
  • Jamie Drummond, cobbler and orator
  • Matt Spicer
  • Robin Maitland, Hugh's younger brother
  • Alan Ferguson, a blue bonnet
  • Geordie Hamilton, a blue bonnet
  • Swallow, Johnnie's horse
  • Archie Campbell, Earl of Argyll, noted backstabber
  • Grannie Baird, gooseberry enthusiast
  • Alexander Leslie, commander of the Army of the Covenant
  • Grannie Jessop, a patient
  • Davy Anderson, cordwainer
  • Ian Murray, innkeeper
  • Red Alasdair MacDonald, leader of the Antrim MacDonalds, enemies of the Campbells
  • Tam Gillespie, political analyst and skeptic
  • Watt, drummer boy, Montrose's shadow, son of his dead friend and officer
  • Lord Graham, Montrose's envoy at Aberdeen
  • General Baillie, commander at Dundee
  • Johnnie Fleming, a Blue Bonnet
  • Gordon, MacDonald, Sutherland, Montrose's commanders [James Gordon, 2nd Viscount Aboyne]
  • Earl of Roxburgh, Royalist
  • Earl of Hume, Royalist
  • Lord Erskine, one of Montrose's commanders
  • Charles II


  • Drumfyvie
    • Drumfyvie Castle
    • Fighting Cocks Lane
    • St. Ninian's
    • Grims Rigg
    • the tolbooth and Market Cross, where the Covenant is signed
  • St. Andrew's University
    • St. Salvator's
  • Holyrood
  • Edinburgh, where the New Revised Prayer Book is introduced
    • the High Kirk of St. Giles
    • the Kirk of the Grey Friars, where The National Covenant lies
    • Edinburgh Lawn Market, where Montrose is hanged
  • Glasgow, the General Assembly of 1638
  • The River Tweed, forded by Montrose on the march south
  • Perth
  • Aberdeen
  • Inveraray, Archie Campbell's castle
  • Inverallochy
  • Dundee, Angus
    • West Port, Baillie's approach
    • East Port, the Blue Bonnets' escape
  • Kelso, appointed mustering place
  • Selkirk
    • Philliphaugh, where the Yarrow and Ettrick meet
  • England
    • London, where Charles I was raised
    • the Northern counties, occupied by Montrose in 1640
    • Marston Moor, signal Royalist defeat in 1644
    • York, surrendered to Parliament after Marston Moor