John Howie, the author of "The Lives of the Scots Worthies", lived in Lochgoin, dying on January 5, 1793. The book contains lives of Protestant reformers. According to a biography contained in an 1853 Robert Carter and Brothers publication of this work, 'the humble occupants of Lochgoin had never swerved from the faith of their fathers. It was not, however, till the period of the second Reformation, that the Howies were brought into prominent notice, by becoming sufferers for the truth. Nor were these sufferings of a trivial nature. Lochgoin, as the reader has already seen, being peculiarly favourable for concealment, had often afforded an asylum to the harrassed Covenanters when flying from their ruthless persecutors...'
From the people in this area, Howie drew material for his biographical sketches. Howie's first subject was Patrick Hamilton, who was martyred in 1528 as a heretic. Howie begins, 'This illustrious youth, destined to the high honour of being the first to announce the truth to his fellow countrymen, and the first to seal it with his blood, was bora in the year 1504. He was of royal lineage, being the son of Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil, who was the son of lord Hamilton, by a sister of king James III. By maternal descent his birth was not less illustrious; his mother being a daughter of John duke of Albany, brother to the same monarch. He was early educated with a view to future high preferment, and had the abbacy of Ferne given him that he might prosecute his studies, which he did with great assiduity....'
According to John Johnston, in "Treasury of the Scottish Covenant", 'Walter Scott refers to Howie as 'the fine old chronicler of the Cameronians'. The Reverend John Carslaw of Airdrie wrote to Walter Scott in1827, asking Scott if he had drawn from Howie's work for his "Old Mortality". Scott replied (May 2, 1827):
SIR,—I am favoured with your letter and in reply to your enquiry beg to assure you that I did not think of
John Howie of Lochgoin,1 the fine old chronicler of the Cameronians, when the sketch of Old Mortality was drawn. In fact that character is one of the few I have ever attempted to delineate which had a real identical existence. The real name of Old Mortality was Paterson : his Christian name I have forgotten but believe it was John. He was a mason by trade, but from enthusiasm possibly something approaching to aberration of mind he forsook his family & wandered through Scotland repairing the tombs of the martyrs. It is now more than thirty years since I met him myself as far north as Dunottar in Kincardineshire on that errand. I believe he was either a Dumfriesshire or Galloway man. John Howie was of Ayrshire. Having thus answered your question to the best of my power I have only to add that the nickname of Old Mortality was generally given to Paterson by the common people, & that many knew him by no other name.
I am. Sir,
Your humble servant