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Arran of the Bens, The Glens and the Brave
Chapter XX. What the Brandanes did for the Stewarts


The Brandanes followed Robert Bruce to Tarbert, and were with the Steward in his raids into England at Byland and at York, where the English Queen came so near to being captured. They were also with him at the desperate siege of Berwick in 1319 ; but the greatest of their services to his house was at the "Battle of the Stones."

When Robert Bruce died in 1329, at only fifty years of age, his son David was a boy of only six years, and Scotland was again plunged into trouble by the ambition of Edward in. of England, who at once commenced his grandfather's old tactics, disregarding the treaty of perpetual peace between the two countries which had been signed in 1328. The treaty had been full of promise for little Scotland as a nation, though it meant bad times for Border reiver and Highland cateran, who had enriched themselves so often by the national pastime of a raid into England, during Bruce's reign.

Edward quietly put up Edward Baliol as king, and bribed the easily purchased nobles of Scotland to lend him their aid when he sent Baliol with an army to invade Scotland. Baliol was crowned at Scone, but the Scottish people were roused, and gathering an army they invaded England. At the famous battle of Halidon Hill they got well beaten, for there they forgot "Bruce's Testament," in which he told them always to avoid the tented field, the formal pitched battle, and to adopt always the tactics of what we would to-day call the guerilla chief. At Halidon Hill the Brandanes were almost annihilated.

The King of England then again invaded Scotland on the rejection of Baliol by the Scots, and reached Glasgow with a large army. He sent his fleet into the Firth of Forth, and made the Earl of Athol Guardian and Governor of the kingdom. Athol then summoned the freeholders of the Stewart-lands—that is, in the south, in Renfrew, Ayr, Carrick, Galloway, Selkirk, and so on, and, having made them swear fealty to Baliol, he marched into the Highlands, and "there was no one who durst gainsay him or proclaim himself Bruce's man."


About the same time the young Robert Stewart, heir to the throne, who was then fifteen years old, was still, for fear of the enemy, lurking in concealment in Rothesay Castle, and was deriving great comfort from, and having frequent conversations with, "two lovers of peace, friends of King David," John MacGilbride, Captain of Bute, and William Heriot, then sojourning in the barony; and they found means to take him over to Dunbarton Castle, bringing with them the charters of Stewartland. Stewart, finding his position still dangerous, and resenting the conduct of Athol in laying claim to the Stewart patrimony, took action, sent for his friend the Lord of Lochawe, and soon captured Dunoon Castle. Holinshead (1585) thus describes the famous Battle of the Stones, which was one of the greatest of all the services of the Brandani to the house of Stewart.

"Incontinently, therefore, Robert Steward assembled his friends by the help of Dungall Campbell of Lochquhow, and suddenly took the Castell of Dunoon, sleaing all the Englishmen and others who were found therein. ... The commons of Bute and Arran, glad of this prosperous beginning, assembled together to the number of 400 persons, and set forward, that they might come to support Robert Steward in such his late begun enterprizes: and being incountered by the way by Alane Lile, shiriff of Bute, they laid so lustilie about them, that they slue the shiriffe (taking prisoner John Gilbert, captaine of the Castell of Bute) there in the field, and discomfited  all his people, which they did after this manner. These people of Bute (called the servants of Bawdanus), seeing such sturs to be made by Alan Lile, ran to a heap of stones not far from them, and with great force pelting the sheriffe, they in the end killed him with stones, and put the rest to flight. Divers of them, taken prisoners, were brought away, and presented to Robert Steward."

The Book of Pluscarden gives a few further particulars of this interesting fight. It says that when the natives of the county heard that their lord Robert Stewart had thus entered their country, "there flocked to him . . . a people called the Brandans, who came to his assistance of their own accord."

"The sheriff of the county of Bute, Alan Lisle, then tried to hem the Brandans in on all sides in a narrow pass, and commenced to kill them without mercy. They, seeing themselves unarmed and surrounded by armed men, posted themselves in a strong place, and, waiting the attack, commenced to shower stones upon the sheriff and his men, till they had killed Lyle and many others, and the rest of his army took to flight. They then cut the sheriff's head off and presented it to the Stewart, and also took prisoner John Gilbert-son, the captain of Bute."

This appears to be the same Gilbertson or MacGilbride who had secretly, with Heriot, rowed the Steward to Dunbarton Castle. He had evidently been made to swear allegiance to Baliol, like many more, against his will. Gilbertson, weare told, surrendered the Castle of Bute and did homage to the Steward as "his natural lord," which, with his local name, certainly means that he was a native.

From him branches of the MacBride and Bannatyne families claim descent. Thus genial Robert was able to make a stand in the West, and was there joined by many friends, including Thomas Bruce and the-men of Kyle.

For this most notable service of the Brandanes, Holinshead adds that Stewart, "in recompense of this service, granted sundrie privileges unto the inhabitants of Bute and Arran: as, among other things, to be free from paying tribute for their corn and grain. Such; felicities succeeding one another, caused many of the Scots to join themselves with Robert Steward, in hope to recover the realm out of the Englishmen's hands."

Save Halidon Hill, the Scots had been successful in all their raids, and Edward got little from his invasions till at Neville's Cross, , where the Brandani were also present, David II., then a youth of eighteen, refusing the advice of experienced men, suffered utter defeat. The Scots army, gathered from Highlands and Lowlands, made a hasty retreat to the fortresses of the Border country, and King David was carried captive into England by one Sir John Copeland, an English knight.


Robert II. did not forget the Brandani, and he made them his bodyguard and gave them charters for their lands, one of which, dated in the second year of his reign, is still possessd by the head of the ancient family of MacLoy or MacLouie of Kilmichael and Whitefarland, who took the name of Fullarton probably from the Ayrshire estate of that name.


The men of the South Isles were probably amongst the Highland Scots and Galloway men who followed William the Lyon in his two attempts to recover Northumberland and Cumberland, which had been won for Scotland by David i. and foolishly made over to Henry, the English king, by treaty of Malcolm the Maiden, a mere boy. William was taken prisoner when jousting with a small party of knights. Immediately the Gaelic people of Scotland, indignant at the encroachments of feudalism and the fondness of the Scottish monarchs for foreign knights and nobles, massacred the Normans and English, and made what Fordun calls "a most woeful and exceeding great persecution of the English, both in Scotia and Galloway." The island of Arran had reverted to the Stewarts, and the sheriffship of Arran and Bute was given by Robert II. to his natural son, the ancestor of the present Sir Hugh Shaw Stewart of Ardgowan and Blackhall. Stewart's second son was keeper of Brodick Castle in 1445-50, and received for the office the sum of .£20 anually, with the revenues of some crown lands in the island.
A little later the chiefs of Kintyre and their men paid Arran a number of visits, in which they took away with them many unconsidered trifles, quite in the old spirit of the Gall Gael. The castles of the island, Lochranza, Brodick, and Kildonan were fortified and garrisoned, and a number of galleys were held in readiness by the Arran lairds. In 1455 the famous Donald Balloch sacked and dismantled Brodick, and in 1462 came the invasion of the Earl of Ross and the Lord of the Isles, their object, according to Gregory, being to upset the Scottish monarchy.

The island of Arran was always an important place, the prop of thrones, the refuge of kings, the cradle of fighting men, the prize of the liberator; but of course the seat of government was not entirely situated in Brodick Castle, and it is difficult to see how these gentlemen, with all their expert knowledge of raids and rebellions, could expect to win the Scottish crown by capturing even that mainstay of royalty ! Their navy was composed of the enormous number of five hundred galleys belonging to the Lord of the Isles. As Mr. MacArthur puts it with unconscious humour: " Though the expedition failed to disturb the independence of Scotland, it was most disastrous in its results on the islets of the Clyde."

The islanders and west Highlanders generally were present to the number of four thousand at the disastrous battle of Pinkie in 1547. Beague, a Frenchman, who was an eye-witness, says: "The Highlanders, who show courage on all occasions, gave proof of their conduct at this time, for they kept together in one body, and made a very handsome and orderly retreat. They are armed with broadswords, large bows, and targets."

Only the year previous the islands of Bute and Arran had been burnt by the English, assisted by MacNeill of Barra, and at this time the position of the Hamiltons was rendered precarious and unpleasant from these raids, as is shown by the various bonds they made with the Arran lairds, the MacAllisters, MacCooks, MacDavids, Mac-Brides, MacKinnons, MacKilgirs.MacCairlies, MacDonalds, and others, for mutual defence in the sixteenth century, not many years after their acquisition of the island.

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