Archive for the ‘castles’ Category

Please welcome today my friend Ian Colville.  In a virtual case of It’s a Small World, I ‘met’ Ian, as best as I can remember (Ian will hopefully correct me if I’m wrong), when he stopped by my blog or facebook author page and said hello, having read my book.  On checking out his site, a Scottish ‘Book of Days,’ I realized it was Iainthepict, whose site was among those I had used in researching the book!  I have recently learned Ian is also a poet and author, having been published previously in an anthology, and just weeks ago, released his own book of poetry, Poetry on the Rocks, which I have been enjoying.

If you love Scotland and Scottish history, check out his site!  And now, here’s Ian on some of Scotland’s great heroes.

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Scotland has had many heroes over the centuries. Some are very well known, thanks in no small part to a Hollywood motion picture, written by an American, starring an Australian and filmed in Ireland. Now, there’s a diaspora for ye! Yet some of Scotland’s heroes are less well known, at least  outwith certain circles, notably those involving Laura and her fans. You’d have to number in that company of medieval knights in armour, two men in particular; Sir James Douglas – the Good Sir James – and Sir Andrew de Moray.

Like William Wallace, both of these men had a grudge to bear against their Anglo-Norman adversary, Edward Plantagenet, the first of that ill bred eponymous triumvirate and the one known as Longshanks. Funnily enough, these two guys had something else in common as their two families were related. Sir James Douglas’ great-great-grandfather had been the brother-in-law of Sir Freskin de Kerdale, from the Laich of Moray, and that Flemish gentleman was the 12th Century founder of the house of Moray from which Sir Andrew was descended.

Douglas’ grudge stemmed from his father’s capture and imprisonment by the English and having had his inheritance taken from him by Edward I, to be bestowed upon my Lord Clifford. The elder Douglas, Sir William ‘le Hardy’, the first Lord of Douglasdale, had joined Wallace in 1296 and was to die in captivity, either in the Tower of London, in 1298, or in the Tower of York, in 1302.

Coincidentally, de Moray’s father had also been imprisoned by Edward of England and that was part of his grudge against that king. After Dunbar, the elder Sir Andrew de Moray of Petty had been incarcerated in the Tower of London, where he died on the 4th of April, 1298. Perhaps William Douglas and Andrew Moray became neighbouring inmates in the dungeons of London’s Tower, where they might have played cards and expressed their hopes and fears for the future welfare of their sons and heirs.

Whilst James Douglas had fled to France after his father’s capture, returning later to join up with Robert the Bruce, Andrew Moray had felt Edward’s hospitality at first hand, having been a prisoner in Chester Castle. He didn’t like that much, during the winter of 1296-97, and so he escaped. After that, Moray’s tale is tied up with that of Wallace and, sadly, it has been more or less overshadowed by the fabled exploits of his erstwhile companion. If ever there was a gap in the market for a stirring tale of medieval derring-do, it would be that of Sir Andrew Moray of Petty, following his proclamation of defiance against the English at Avoch in Ross, in May of 1297.

Of course, the course of history would not have been the same had not Alexander III fallen to his death down a wee bit bank near Findhorn in Fife, in the misty-moisty, early morning hours of the 19th of March, 1286. Mystery persists around his death. Perhaps, along with that of Henry, Lord Darnley, who also died mysteriously in the early hours of a morning, in Kirk o’ Field, in Edinburgh, in 1567, it ranks as the greatest unsolved murder mystery in Scotland; who knows.

What is fair to say, is that the Bruces had most to gain from Alexander’s death. Everyone remembers Robert the Bruce, but not many recall his Pa was also called Robert. In fact, Robert the eldest son was the ninth such of that name in the space of ten generations. But it wasn’t Robert’s Dad who was the driving force, it was his grandfather who would be King – and time was running out for him. In 1286, Robert Bruce, the Competitor, had only nine years left before he was to die.

Nobody would suggest that an eleven years old Robert Bruce of Annandale would be up to mischief after midnight of the 18th of March, 1286, though somebody might raise the question of where was his father that night. Perhaps he was on the way back from the Bruce Lordship in the Garioch, by way of Fife, heading for one of the few crossings of the Forth, at Queensferry, on his way back to the south west. Well, he could’ve been.

So, think on this if you’re seeking a storyline for your next book; anyone whose son could play stabbety-stab with his main rival inside a kirk in Dumfries in 1306, could just as easily play bumps-a-daisy with Alexander mac Alexander mac William mac Henry at the top of a slippery slope in Fife, in the dark, in 1286. There is no evidence for that, of course, but it’d make a great motion picture. You can just see Russell Crowe in the role of the King, with Ewan McGregor as the Earl of Carrick and surely, the tale would read well in a book. Murder mystery, anyone?

 

Bio:

iainthepict

Ian Colville writes a blog about Scottish history, under the pseudonym of ‘iainthepict’, a nom de guerre he’s been using for his on-line presence since the Internet contrived to set us all free (or let loose). Ian also writes poetry, using the same nom de plume, as a contributor to Jottify, and on his own Blogger page as iainthepoet. His blog about Scottish historical events is a sort of ‘book of days’, intended to present at least one post for each day of the year. It’s in its third year now, but it’s becoming a bit sporadic. Ian has also been writing poetry, albeit sporadically, for the last forty years or so, however, the major portion of his poems have been written in the last decade. He writes in English and Scots, and has written a couple of poems in German. Three of Ian’s poems appear in ‘Wordgasm’, a best-selling and award winning anthology with attitude, published by American author Rob Deck, in February, 2011. Ian has also published an e-book, entitled ‘Poetry on the Rocks’, which is available in the Jottify store.

 

Learn more about Ian at:

http://iainthepict.blogspot.com

http://iainthepoet.blogspot.com

http://jottify.com/writer/iainthepict/

http://jottify.com/book/poetry-on-the-rocks/

It was a hot and muggy July in 1314 at Stirling Castle on the eastern coast of Scotland. Good King Robert, the Bruce, had just won a great victory at Blàr Allt a’ Bhonnaich  or the Battle of Bannockburn, sending England’s Edward II, his pride and his army crushed, home to think again. But at Stirling Castle within sight of the battleground, midges swarmed around hundreds of men, sweat-drenched as they tunneled under the walls and fired the supports. Great billows of smoke rose in columns. Walls and towers crashed to the ground.

Well, that’s how I imagine it anyway.

It was not the English who were destroying the huge Scottish castle which had surrendered to the Scots on June 25, the day after the battle. The English needed castles to try to control the Scottish countryside and its stubbornly independent people. Instead, King Robert the Bruce was slighting the last of the great Scottish castles as he had been doing for the past six years. There was only one way to deny the English those strongholds. Destroy them. (Slight is used in the old sense of “to level with the ground” and is the common term for leveling a castle)

The English built the great castles of Wales to suppress the Welsh people. Scotland already had great castles such as Berwick, Stirling, Edinburgh and Roxburgh which the English could use for that purpose. The early days of the Scottish War of Independence had proven to King Robert that he could not hope to hold the castles against the overwhelming numbers the English could bring against him. The English needed castles them to hold Scotland. The Scots didn’t. It was their home.

The Scots fought a different kind of war as explained in a famous verse called Good King Robert’s Testament:

On foot should be all Scottish war.

Let hill and marsh their foes debar

And woods as walls prove such an arm

That enemies do them no harm.

In hidden spots keep every store

And burn the plainlands them before,

So, when they find the land lie waste

Needs must they pass away in haste

Harried by cunning raids at night

And threatening sounds from every height.

Then, as they leave, with great array

Smite with the sword and chase away.

This is the counsel and intent

Of Good King Robert’s Testament

Earlier in 1314, Sir James Douglas, Lord of Douglas had captured Roxburgh Castle, one of the largest in Scotland, after one of his infamous sneak attacks, and the king sent his brother with an entire army to slight it. Not wishing Douglas to get one up on him, for they were well-known for competing with each other, Sir Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, captured Edinburgh Castle which was also promptly slighted on King Robert’s command.

However, this wasn’t new, but a longstanding policy of King Robert’s. The first of the castles that I know of to be destroyed was James Douglas’s own Douglas Castle which Douglas first burned, probably in 1307, and then completely slighted a year later after the English had rebuilt it.

This policy became a fixture. In the north of Scotland, castles could be strongholds for King Robert’s domestic enemies, the Comyns and their allies, so those were destroyed. In the south of Scotland,  castles were essential to English war policy. That was where most of the great royal castles were and capturing them took much longer. But captured they were, one by one. After the Battle of Bannockburn, only Berwick Castle remained standing until 1318.

By the end of 1314, Scotland, in effect, was a kingdom without castles.


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About J.R. Tomlin:

 

Born in the US, in Texas to be specific, to a Scottish father and American mother, J. R. grew up spending time both in Texas and Scotland, mainly in  Edinburgh where her grandparents lived. Her first memory of writing is a poem in the second grade, and she long had an ambition to be a poet, which was given up when she realized that her poetry was pretty bad. Instead she went into journalism. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and now lives in the rainier clime of the US Pacific North West. Her historical novels of Scotland include Freedom’s Sword and A Kingdom’s Cost.