Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Anniversary of the Battle of Happrew

The Battle of Happrew took place on or about the 20th of February 1304.

On that day in the leap year of 1304, the ragged-arsed remnants of the men who had bled wi' Wallace were called into action to defend themselves against a force of several hundred knights loyal to the English king, Edward I. It was during what's known as the First War of Scottish Independence, after puir Wullie returned from France, and about a year and a half before his brutal, judicial murder near Smithfield, in London.

Robert Low, in his excellent novel The Lion at Bay, has the battle take place on Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of our Lord Jesus, Sunday the 2nd of February 1304. Traditionally the 40th day of the Christmas-Epiphany season, Candlemas was an unfortunate day for a battle, but war is no respecter of Christian traditions. No doubt Low settled on the 2nd to fit in with the timeline of his narrative.

Most sources point to a later date, towards the end of the month. The Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, II, no. 1432 [Edinburgh, 1881, ed. J. Bain] has it chronologically after the surrender of the Comyn and others at Perth, on the 9th of February. That places the battle later in the month, when Longshanks, then occupying Dunfermline, dispatched a mounted force under Sir John de Segrave, on a scouting mission cum raid into Selkirk Forest with the intention of rooting out and capturing Wallace, Sir Simon Fraser, and their fellow patriots.

The same source has the English king, at Aberdour on the 3rd of March, applauding 'their diligence in his affairs, and begs them to complete the business they have begun so well and to bring matters to a close before they leave the parts on that side [the Forth].' As an insight into the character of Longshanks, the entry in the Royal Charters quotes him as urging them earnestly, “as the cloak is well made, also to make the hood.” You can deduce from that, the battle occurred sometime between the 9th of February and the 3rd of March. You can also deduce that de Segrave wasn't entirely successful i.e., he captured neither Wallace nor Fraser.

The English led force did discover the guerilla band of Wallace and Fraser, and the Battle of Happrew took place. It resulted in a defeat for the Scots, but they weren't routed, and the two principles on the Scottish side managed to steal away. There is no information about the course of the battle, who first attacked whom and what formations were employed on either side. History has drawn a blank on that detail, but Low has a great account of it in his book. I recommend you give it a read.

Andrew Fisher, in his biography entitled simply William Wallace, mentions the battle a couple of times, but with no detail other than that Wallace and Fraser were defeated, and escaped. Blind Harry makes no mention whatsoever of the battle. In William Wallace Braveheart, by James Mackay, the battle is described as 'a bloody encounter' and the English force as 'large'. Mackay goes on to state that Happrew was William Wallace's last battle. Revealing the treacherous underside of history, Mackay also states that, leading up to the battle, Wallace was tracked down by a fellow Scot, one John of Musselburgh, who was given ten shillings from Longshanks' own hand as a reward.

Another Scot who had reason to be ashamed of himself that day was Sir Robert de Brus, the future King. Sir Robert, despite his forthright claims of right to the throne in Scotland, was in the English led contingent under de Segrave. At that time, de Brus had been active in Edward’s service for a couple of years. Indeed, he had been given the command of the garrison in the castle of Ayr. The Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, in the reference to Edward applauding 'their diligence' as above, precedes that sentence with the damning introduction: 'The K. to his loyal and faithful Robert de Brus earl of Carrick, Sir John de Segrave, and their company'. The Bruce, of course, was biding his time.

For Sir John de Segrave, 2nd Baron Segrave, the Battle of Happrew was his second encounter with the Scottish resistance. A year earlier, at the Battle of Roslin, de Segrave was severely wounded and taken prisoner along with twenty other knights. He was captured by a group of patriots under the command of Sir Simon Fraser and Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. Notably, at that time, the Comyn was far more of a patriot than de Brus, engaged in actual fighting against the English up until his surrender on the 9th of February.

Unluckily for Wallace, de Segrave was rescued at Roslin, and recovered enough to lead the search a year later. After Happrew, de Segrave was present at the siege of Stirling Castle, which surrendered on the 24th of July 1304. On the departure of Edward I, de Segrave was appointed Justice and Captain in Scotland south of the River Forth. After the betrayal and capture of William Wallace, de Segrave personally escorted him to London, and after Wallace's death, de Segrave was the man who took the  quartered parts of his body back to Scotland.

The Battle of Happrew took place on Sir Simon Fraser's home territory, in the vicinity of Stobo, near Peebles, by the Lyne Water, a tributary of the River Tweed, in the former county of Peeblesshire, now the district of Tweeddale. You'll find Easter Happrew and Wester Happrew on Google Maps these days, near Hallyne on the A72 west of Peebles. However, the precise location of the skirmish isnae weel kent, although it's not far from Sherrif Muir, the scene of another famous battle.

The battle is sometimes referred to as the Action at Happrew; however, the use of that term, in the sense meaning fighting, stems from c.1600 (as in 'he saw action in the campaign'), which is about 300 years too late to have been used at the time. It would be more accurate to have called it a skirmish. With a battle being a prolonged and general conflict pursued to a definite decision, and a skirmish being a light engagement, often on the periphery of an area of battle, Happrew would seem to fall into the latter category.

Wikipedia refers to the battle having involved “A chevauchée of English knights.” However, the same source describes a chevauchée as a raiding method of medieval warfare. I don't know about you, but the idea of 'a raiding method' as a collective noun isn't one to which I'd subscribe. It would be better to use the description of 'mednee' (mesnie – a feudal label for the military personnel of a castle household) for the group of knights engaged 'on this chevauchée' as an entry in the The Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland puts it. In any event, the occupying invader's force, led by Sir John de Segrave, is likely to have numbered in the hundreds, while Wallace and Fraser may have led as few as fifty men.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn

Robert the Bruce's speech, prior to the second day of the Battle of Bannockburn, 24th of June, 1314

Sometime around midnight, edging into the 24th of June, 1314, Robert the Bruce, in a stirring speech, rallied his closest followers. Round his camp fire, he regaled them with a dramatic monologue, sharing his intimate thoughts about the coming second day's battle and the justification for its fighting, condensing the momentous events that had led them to their present circumstance into a famous rallying cry. To a man and prior to retiring for what would be to more than a few, their last night on earth, they were inspired by their magnificent leader. The results of that motivation were to be seen the following day, when the Scottish army roundly defeated that of England, despite the enemy's superiority in knights and chivalry. It was a shock result that sent reverberations

Monday, 12 November 2012

The feast day of St. Machar

The feast day of St. Machar occurs on the 12th of November each year.

Saint Machar is the patron saint of Aberdeen, which can't be a bad thing as there surely aren't many saints in the Granite City. However, the trouble with Machar is that despite 'giving' his name to the cathedral church in Aberdeen, he's kind of invisible. Reputedly a 6th Century missionary, who was sent by St. Columba to preach on Deeside, he also goes by the names of  Mochumma, Mochrieha or Mochreiha. Having a selection of names would appear to make him more visible to history, if only he could be pinned down. And that's the major problem, nowhere in the ancient biographies of St. Columba does Machar appear.

If you take the stories of Columba dispatching Machar to Deeside as gospel, surely

Monday, 8 October 2012

Margaret Stuart (Lady Margaret Douglas), Countess of Lennox

Margaret Douglas was born on the 8th of October, 1515.

Margaret Douglas, who subsequently became Margaret Stuart, the Countess of Lennox, lived in interesting times to say the least. They were also dangerous times, spanning the English reigns of Henry VIII, his son, Edward VI, and his daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I, and James V, Mary I, Queen of Scots, and James VI in Scotland. Things wouldn't have been so interesting for Margaret if she hadn't been related to most all of the above in one way or another. And she wasn't some distant relation or natural daughter of minor royalty, either; she had a decent pedigree as those things go and, at one time, she was in line to succeed to the throne of England. Not bad for a lassie born to Archibald Douglas, the 6th Earl of Angus, albeit she was born in England, a niece of Henry VIII and a cousin to Mary I and Elizabeth I.

Margaret's father, the Earl of Angus was once described by his own uncle, Gavin Douglas, as

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Battle of Glenlivet

The Battle of Glenlivet was fought on the 3rd of October, 1594.

The Battle of Glenlivet, which took place near Allanreid and Morinsh, is one of those battles to which several alternative names have been appended. It's been called the Battle of Balrinnes, from Beinn Rinnes, the mountain that formed a splendid backdrop to the engagement and would recollect it still, if asked. The battle is also known as the Battle of Strathaven or the Battle of Allt a' Choileachain (pronounced hullachan), from the wee burn that runs alongside the battlefield. It's probably significant that Historic Scotland's inventory process seems to have settled on Glenlivet.

The battle, like many since AD 32, had religious connotations, but

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot - 'the Earl of Mar's Gray Breeks'

On the 23rd of September, 1678, the Earl of Mar was commissioned to form Mar's Regiment of Foot.

The history of many of Scotland's regiment's goes back to the 17th or 18th Centuries. One of the earliest was the Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot, which was raised in Scotland to suppress the Covenanters, during what has been called the Second Whig Revolt. That revolt lasted a year or so, between 1678 and 1679, but the persecution of the Covenanters went on for some time afterwards, reaching its peak in the 'Killing Times'.

The Earl of Mar at that time was Charles Erskine, the 5th Earl. Erskine was a Stuart loyalist, which meant he was a supporter of the Catholic king, James VII & II, who had a wheen troubles wi' the Covenanters before he was usurped by his ain daughter and her first cousin, Orange Wullie. Wullie became King William II & III and his Protestant wife, James Stuart's daughter, became Queen Mary II & II. You can argue what you like, but

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Turnberry Bond

The Turnberry Bond was signed at Turnebyry in Carryke, on the eve of St. Matthew; the 20th of September, 1286.

The historical event involving the Turnberry Bond is better known as the Turnberry Band. For some strange reason, the event that was the signing of the Turnberry Bond instead became known by a collective noun for its group of signatories. According to logic, the bond of agreement that was signed shouldn't and couldn't have been called the Turnberry Band. It was a bond and it was known, at least in Scotland, as a bond – the Turnberry Bond. The band of rogues that signed it could've been given various names and calling them the Turnberry Band is one of the more generous options.

The prime movers in the signing of the Bond were