Biographia Scoticana: John Welch

Extract taken from Biographia Scoticana or, A Brief Historical Account of the Lives, Characters, and Memorable Transactions of the most Eminent Scots Worthies by John Howie (Second edition, corrected and enlarged, 1781), pp. 146-7

There was in his House, among many others who tabled with him for good Education, a young Gentleman of great Quality, and suitable Expectations, and this was the Heir of the Lord Ochiltry, who was Captain of the Castle of Edinburgh.

So that this young Nobleman, after he had gained very much upon Mr. Welch’s Affections, fell sick of a grievous Sickness, and after he had been long wasted with it, closed his Eyes, and expired, as dying Men use to do. So, to the Apprehension and Sense of all Spectators, he was no more but a Carcass, and was therefore taken out of his Bed, and laid upon a Pallat on the Floor, that his Body might be the more conveniently dressed, as dead Bodies use to be.

This was to Mr. Welch a very great Grief, and therefore he stayed with the young Man’s dead Body full three Hours lamenting over him with great Tenderness. After twelve Hours, the Friends brought a Coffin, whereinto they desired the Corpse to be put, as the Custom is: But Mr. Welch desired, that, for the Satisfaction of his Affections, they would forbear the Youth for a Time; which they granted, and returned not till twenty-four Hours after his Breath was expired: Then they returned, desiring with great Importunity the Corpse might be coffined, that it might be speedily buried, the Weather being extremely hot; yet he persisted in his Request, earnestly begging them to excuse him for once more. So they left the Youth upon his Pallat for full thirty-six Hours: But even after all that, though he was urged, not only with great Earnestness, but Displeasure, they were constrained to forbear for twelve Hours yet more.

After forty-eight Hours were past, Mr. Welch was still where he was, and then his Friends perceived he believed the young Man was not really dead, but under some Apoplectic Fit; and therefore proposed to him, for his Satisfaction, that Trial should be made upon his Body by Doctors and Surgeons, if possibly any Spark of Life might be found in him; and with this he was content. So the Physicians were set a-Work, who pinched him with Pincers in the fleshy Parts of his Body, and twisted a Bowstring about his Head with great Force; but no Sign of Life appeared in him, so the Physicians pronounced him stark dead; and then there was no more Delay to be desired: Yet Mr. Welch begged of them once more, that they would but step into the next Room for an Hour or Two, and leave him with the dead Youth; and this they granted.

Then Mr. Welch fell down before the Pallat, and cried unto the Lord with all his Might for the last Time, and sometimes looking upon the dead Body, continuing in wrestling with the Lord, till at Length the dead Youth opened his Eyes, and cried out to Mr. Welch, who he distinctly knew, O, Sir, I am all whole but my Head and Legs: And these were the Places they had sore hurt with their pinching.

When Mr. Welch perceived this, he called upon his Friends, and shewed the dead young Man restored to Life again, to their great Astonishment. And this young Nobleman, though his Father lost the Estate of Ochiltry, lived to acquire a great Estate in Ireland, and was Lord Castle-Stuart, and a Man of such excellent Parts, that he was courted by the Earl of Strafford, to be a Counsellor in Ireland, which he refused to be, until the godly silenced Scottish Ministers, who suffered under the Bishops in the North of Ireland, were restored to the Exercise of their Ministry, and then he engaged; and so continued for all his Life, not only in Honour and Power, but in the Profession and Practice of Godliness, to the great Comfort of the Country where he lived. This Story the Nobleman communicated to his Friends in Ireland, and from them I had it.