I wrote this at two am
the day before I was to give a historical treatise/bardic oratory
for the opening presentations at the Pacific Northwest Highland
Games and Clan Gathering. It was a museaic perspective of Moray and
Clan Chattan's part at the first stramash at Bannockburn. I thought
you might like it for your web site.
Bannockburn – 1314.
~ by William G. A. Shaw of Easter Lair
....."I was both
afraid and impressed as the English knights formed ranks and tried
to canter up the uneven wet ground of Allt a' Bhonnaich – the
Bannock Burn. The English looked like they were at a Midsummer
tournament, showing off for their damsels.
Each knight blazed
with heraldry and color – from their flags, banners and pennons to
their crested helmets, painted shields and flowing surcoats. As the
distance between them and our Shield Troop, our Schiltron narrowed,
I saw that even their horses trappings had decorations!
Our Chief, Angus
MacFearchar Mhic an Toiseach was encouraging our clan…first making
jokes about the oncoming enemy, then exhorting us to "‘Remember your
Training, dammit'. And make me Proud".
"And Hold Fast - Hold
fast for Raibeart an Righ" – for Robert the King.
Angus's quartered red
lion and blue chequy banner also fluttered proudly in the wind. And
he too displayed his coat of arms on his tunic and on his shield.
But in our leather and mail jacks and muted tartan cloaks, us
Moraymen looked like drab moor hens compared to the colorful storm
thundering towards us on horseback.
My own clan, the Clan
Chattan, the ‘Clan of the Cats’ was part of good King Robert’s army.
Our Shiltron was commanded by The Bruce's cousin, the Earl of Moray.
As we closed ranks, our thicket of grounded twelve foot spears
formed an angry brown hedgehog of death. A second before impact, we
all tensed up. And yelled like madmen.
The cavalry hit us
like a huge wave. Lances and spears snapped, men yelled, steel
clanged, horses lunged and screamed and we surged backwards a little
in shock. But grunting, bleeding, pushing and spearing at anything
colorful that moved, or neighed - some of us fell, but we held our
After our first
melee, the Earl of Moray was not quite so dapper looking now, his
once pristine surcoat was smeared with blood and dirt, his helmet
had two dents. His shield now scarred and battered in the first
The English swirled,
regrouped, and came at us again. Stabbing at the second wave of
'chivalry', our Shiltron lunged forth. Panting, swearing, yelling,
and some even farting in our muscle-straining efforts. But we held
our now churned and muddy ground again. Turf flew as slashed and
dying horses foundered, screaming and flailing...their intestines
uncoiling wetly. Their proud riders crushed or thrown down with a
heavy clatter. And then we skewered them. It was like spearing fish.
The English's third
try was less powerful. And less chivalrous. Frustrated, they threw
so many axes and maces at our Shiltron. We piled the dead (and some
not quite dead) up in the middle of our circle of spearmen like
chicken bones on a plate. And then the riders wheeled off.
Incredulous that we still lived, we all panted for a moment, soaked
in blood, sweat, mud and maybe just a little bit of piss.
Raising his great
sword, Moray yelled 'At them lads!' And - just like we practiced
again and again under the Watchful Eye of The Bruce, our Shiltron
re-formed and lurched forward in a shambling, then jogging
steel-tipped, noisy charge. Amazed at the unnatural sight, the
English broke ranks, wheeled and hightailed it back to their marshy
We raised our spears
and battle flags and swords and taunted them. The Shilton of Moravia
had drawn first blood. And tomorrow King Robert would sweep them all
from the marshy ground.
Alba gu Brath!
As I was driving to work on a dark, sleety Winter Solstice morning I
was thinking of the 700th Anniversary of Bannockburn coming up. I
was also thinkin gof the pivotal September election (!). I was also
thinking of my good friend and Brother Christopher Robert Bruce (The
Bruce Family and Chief's Representative in Australia). Suddenly,
this little poem just popped in to my head - almost in entirety!
Where did THAT come from?! I stopped my car, and fished around for a
pen and scrap of paper and wrote the rhyme down before it faded away
in the pre-dawn mist.
The last poem I ever wrote was thirty-six years ago, when I was all
of 19! ~ WGAS of EL.
Blàr Allt a'
~ Under King Robert's
gaze, our fears had fled. 'My Hope is Constant with Thee', he said.
Banners bright with English might, their hooves began to pound.
But shoulder to shoulder, Scots brothers we, Stood our muddy ground.
~ Our heart and hand, and sword and axe, the English began to fear.
But most of all they quailed and cried on the point of our
Earl and Shepherd, Chief and Cotter, together we gave the English
At Bannockburn the English fled, and defiant roared the Lion Red,
And defiant roared the Lion Red.
William G. A. Shaw of Easter Lair
Representer of the Territorial House of Shaw of Easter Lair ~
Member of Council, Clan Chattan Association, Invernessshire ~
Member of Council, Scottish Armigerous Clans and Families ~
Member, Heraldry Society of Scotland ~