Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

History of the Burgh of Dumfries
Chapter X


WHEN King Edward heard of the revolution thus initiated at Dumfries, he was filled with astonishment and rage. He was now “stricken in years,” and, instead of enjoying the rest that he had anticipated, he must resume active warfare against the people he had often beaten, but never thoroughly subdued, or see the fruit of all his past efforts perish before his eyes. Resolving at once on adopting the first of these alternatives, he held a solemn chivalrous festival in Westminster Hall, at which the Prince of Wales and three hundred squires of high degree received the honour of knighthood, as if to fit them better for the coming enterprise: and at the banquet that ensued, after two swans covered with golden net-work had been placed upon the board, the King, standing with uplifted hand, vowed to God and to the sacred birds that he would forthwith avenge the murder of Comyn, and visit all the rebel Scots with condign punishment; and that, to propitiate Heaven, he would afterwards spend his latest days following the standard of the Cross in Palestine. [Lord Hailes, vol. ii., p. 4.] All who heard the King approved of his decision; and the liberal contributions from the clergy and the merchants supplied means for carrying on the new campaign. Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, an experienced warrior, was chosen by the King as the instrument of his meditated vengeance. He was appointed Guardian of Scotland, and, at the head of an immense army, set out upon his mission. Perth was his first prize; and Bruce, appearing before that town with a comparatively small force, challenged De Valence to come forth with his troops and meet him in the open field. On the following day the English commander intimated his readiness to act upon this cartel of defiance, which was given in accordance with the chivalrous customs of the period; and Bruce, relying on his promise to that effect, drew off his men to the woods of Methven, about six miles distant from Perth. There, in the evening twilight [Chronicles of Abingdon, quoted by Tyrrel, vol. iii., p. 172.], they were treacherously attacked by Pembroke at the head of a more numerous force, and put to the rout: Bruce, who was thrice unhorsed in the conflict, escaping with difficulty into the wilds of Athol with the remnant of his army, not more than five hundred men. [Barbour, pp. 35, 36.]

Driven from thence by the want of provisions, they passed into the low country of Aberdeenshire, where Bruce was joined by his Queen, and other ladies resolved on sharing the adverse fortunes of their lords. There but momentary rest awaited them. The band of fugitives who formed the forlorn-hope of Scottish patriotism had to retire, menaced by a large body of the enemy. We next find them on the bleak mountains of Breadalbane, fishing and hunting for a subsistence, and at times cheating hunger with such wild berries as the woods afforded: then on the borders of Argyleshire, where the Red Comyn’s relative, M’Dougal of Lorn [M’Dougal was married to Comyn’s aunt, Barbour, p. 40.], desirous of revenging his kinsman, repulsed the party after a sanguinary conflict: then the small island of Rachrin, on the Irish coast, gave welcome refuge in winter to the unfortunate King of Scots and a few of his adherents – his Queen and his daughter Marjory obtaining an asylum in the sanctuary of St. Duthac, at Tain, and their female companions, shelter in the Castle of Kildrummie, then held by the King’s brother, Nigel Bruce.

But no fortress was strong enough, nor religious structure holy enough, to stand between these illustrious refugees and the vindictive rage of the English monarch: Kildrummie was stormed by his troops. The Earl of Ross, having neither reverence for St. Duthac nor regard for his Queen, took her and the Princess Marjory from the sanctuary, and placed them in the keeping of Pembroke. A long course of close confinement in England was assigned to the royal captives. The Countess of Buchan, who had placed Bruce upon the coronation chair at Scone, was immured in a cage placed on an outer turret of Berwick Castle; and one of Bruce’s sisters was similarly treated at the Castle of Roxburgh. In this barbarous way were the Scottish heroines treated who fell into the hands of the English; and it need scarcely be added that the captive patriots of the sterner sex had no mercy shown to them. Young Nigel Bruce, Sir Simon Fraser, the veteran companion of Wallace, and the brave Earl of Athol, then in the prime of manhood, are only a few of the distinguished victims of Edward’s cruelty who perished on the scaffold at Berwick, Dumfries, Newcastle, and London. [Rymer, vol. i., p. 996; and Prynne, p. 1156.]

It was some time in the winter of 1306, more than a year after the slaughter of Comyn, that some of the executions referred to took place in Dumfries. In the interval, the Castle and other strengths in the vicinity won by the Scots had been retaken by their enemies; and at the time when Bruce was struggling for bare life in the north, fair Nithsdale lay once more beneath “the proud foot of the conqueror.” We read of no tumult occurring on that account in the town – of no attempt at rescue being made when three illustrious patriots were led forth to their doom on the gallows tree. The dread apparatus of death was erected on a high natural eminence, situated beyond the walls, on the north-east of the Burgh, so that the inhabitants might have an opportunity of seeing how the usurper rewarded what his judges called rebellion, and of profiting by the spectacle. The Dumfriesians of that day were unfortunately too much accustomed to such sights; but they would be dreadfully shocked, nevertheless, by these executions – one of the sufferers being none other than Sir Christopher Seton, the brother-in-law of their King, a most valiant warrior, who at the battle of Methven had rescued Bruce, by felling his captor, Sir Philip de Mowbray, to the ground. He was accused of treason in general, and more especially of having been present at the slaughter of Comyn. On being sought for by the English, he took refuge in the strong Castle of Loch-Doon, situated on the frontier between Galloway and Ayrshire, and which belonged to Bruce, as Lord of Carrick. [Evidence in a remission under the Great Seal. – Vide Tytler’s History of Scotland, vol. i., p. 42.]   Loch-Doon is a beautiful sheet of clear water, about eleven miles in length and one mile in breadth, possessing a gravelly bottom and beach, bounded nearly half of its length on the east by the parish of Carsphairn, and the remaining part on the west of the parishes of Dalmellington and Straiton. About half-way betwixt the Galloway and Carrick sides are the remains of an old castle, built in the octagonal form, and situated upon a rock which is surrounded by the deep waters of the lake. This ruin is the remnant of a strong fort which, from its situation, must have been impregnable before the use of gunpowder. – NICHOLSON’S History of Galloway, Appendix, vol. i., p. 17.]  Here he might have remained safe, had not Sir Gilbert de Corrie, hereditary keeper of the fortress, given him up to his enemies, by whom he was placed in fetters, hurried to Dumfries, and there tried, condemned, and sentenced to be hanged and then beheaded. [Barbour, p. 52.] Seton, with his two companions, suffered accordingly; and, no doubt, in compliance with the usual custom, their severed heads would be held up by the officiating executioner as a warning to the onlookers, who, however, we suspect, would be more horror-stricken than terrified by the spectacle, and would long eagerly for the day when the blood of the martyred patriots, crying for vengeance, would not cry in vain. When the period of retribution came round, and its demands were satisfied and peace was restored, Sir Christopher Seton’s widow, Christian Bruce, erected a chapel on the site of his execution, “in honorem cruces Dominici;” and in which, by her brother’s liberality, provision was made for celebrating mass for the soul of her departed husband.

The charter endowing the chapel was granted by Bruce on the 31st of November, 1323, when he was reigning as undisputed King of Scotland. It sets forth – that Christopher de Seton, our beloved soldier, having been put to death in our service, and our dear sister Christian, his spouse, having, on the place where he suffered death, near Dumfries, founded a certain chapel in honour of the Holy Rood, by it known unto her, that for the favour and affection borne by us to the said Christopher, in his life, we have given and confirmed to a chaplain, in the same chapel, to celebrate mass for ever for the soul of the said Christopher, one hundred shillings sterling (centum solidos striviling) of annual value; the same to be payable by the hands of our Sheriff of Dumfries and his bailies from the rents of the barony of Carlaverock, at Whitsunday and Martinmas, in equal proportions. Wherefore we command our said Sheriff and his bailies to pay in full, and for ever, one hundred shillings out of the said annual rents for the aforesaid purpose, and to enter the same in their accounts with us and our heirs. [A copy of the original document, of which the outline is given above, is printed in the Appendix F.]

Sir Christopher’s Chapel, originated under such mournfully interesting circumstances, is said to have been a beautiful little Gothic building of oblong shape, cornered by pointed buttresses, and having a richly decorated oriel window. It was further endowed with a small portion of the surrounding land, in order that the object of its erection might be fully carried into effect.

As Comyn’s kinsmen had, more out of hatred to Bruce than from any other motive, given material assistance in crushing the patriotic movement, they rose into high favour with King Edward; and, in reward for their services, they received from him a portion of the royal fugitive’s forfeited estates – the Earl of Hereford obtaining the lordship of Annandale, and Henry Percy the earldom of Carrick. The English and recreant Scots, to whom the conquered country was parceled out, held but a feeble and temporary tenure of it. Bruce, though an exile, and without an army, still hoped for better times, and waited for a favourable opportunity to reassert his country’s rights. While under shelter at Rachrin, he lived so obscurely that a rumour of his death was current. When it reached Edward, who was suffering from ill-health at Carlisle, the news would have a reviving effect upon the inexorable monarch; and he might then flatter himself into the belief, that though he had not turned Scotland into a wilderness, he had done what was better – had completely subdued it, since, if there were any “rebels” left in the country, they had now neither head nor hope.

The winter of 1306 was indeed a cheerless season for Scotland. One dark night in the following February, a beacon-fire was seen blazing from a height near the Castle of Turnberry, in Carrick: it was viewed with apprehension by the English garrison of the fortress, and with joyful solicitude by the illustrious fugitive now in the Isle of Arran, to whom it was a signal that he might venture across, and renew the war of independence on his own ancestral territory. He had only about one hundred and eighty followers, including, however, his brother Edward, Douglas, Lennox, Lindsay, Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, and a few other trusty barons.

                                    “With such small force did Bruce at last
                                      The die for death or empire cast.” [Scott’s Lord of the Isles.]

Crossing over the intermediate sea in boats, they made a sudden onslaught on the English soldiers quartered in the hamlet of Turnberry, and, after putting most of them to the sword, retired with rich booty to the neighbouring mountains, in order to recruit their strength. Percy found his position in Turnberry Castle so critical that he soon afterwards evacuated it: Douglas recovered from the enemy his hereditary barony of Douglasdale, in the neighbourhood: and Bruce defeated the forces of Pembroke at Loudon-hill. Thus Carrick was freed from the English: the die cast by Bruce turned up favourably; the beacon-light which led him to the coast of Ayrshire proving the harbinger of Scotland’s deliverance. Two months afterwards, an event occurred which inflicted a greater blow on the Anglican usurpation than a series of defeats in the field. When King Edward heard that the audacious chief, who was said to have died in exile, had reappeared as a successful leader of the rebellious Scots, he resolved, though emaciated by disease and premature old age, to lead, personally, an overwhelming army against him. A great military host having at his summons mustered in Carlisle, he left the litter on which he had for previous days been carried, mounted his war-steed, reviewed his troops, and, as the trump of battle sounded in his ear, visions of fame and conquest – of the rebel Scots trodden under foot, crushed, exterminated – came up before his heated fancy. These were the convulsive efforts, the feverish dreams of a dying man. A weary march of six miles with his army brought him to the village of Burgh-upon-Sands; and there, in sight of the land across the Solway which he had deluged with blood, and vainly devoted to a new host of horrors, the unhappy King expired – his disappointments and hopes alike at an end – no more wars after this closing struggle – no more victories, now that all-conquering Death was turning him into dust.

But not into dust in the ordinary vulgar fashion. His last request to his son and barons was, that his body should not be buried, but boiled in a cauldron till the flesh fell from the bones; and that the skeleton should be borne with them into Scotland, and kept above ground till the country was wholly subdued. A more striking illustration of the King’s implacable temper could not have been given. His ruling passion was not only “strong in death,” but he wished to make it overleap the grave. Edward II. soon found out that the hideous legacy of his father’s relics was likely to be troublesome, and associated with a difficult, if not an impracticable condition; and before the conquest of the Scots had been a step advanced, all that remained of their relentless enemy was mingling with kindred dust in the royal sepulchre at Westminster.

When Edward I. expired, Bruce and Scotland began to breathe more freely. His death was like the removal of an incubus from the breast of the prostrate nation – or rather of a vampire that had for twenty years been draining its heart’s blood.

The new King of England was vain, weak, and vacillating. He made a sort of royal progress through Nithsdale, marching to Cumnock, then returning to Carlisle, without doing anything towards the accomplishment of his father’s darling wish. When at Dumfries, in August, 1307, he granted the earldom of Cornwall to his favourite, Piers de Gaveston, as is shown by the address of the patent. At Tynwald, on the 30th of the same month, he issued a new commission to Aymer de Valence, whereby all the King’s bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, bailies, and faithful subjects were informed that his dear cousin, the noble Earl of Pembroke, had been appointed Viceroy, “nostrum locum tenens,” of Scotland during the royal pleasure, and been authorized to extend mercy to all rebel Scots who offered to submit, excepting those who had been concerned in the death of “Johan Comyn,” or were “counsellors or assenters in occasioning the late daring war.” [Rymer’s Fœdera, vol. ii.] Quite in accordance with the monarch’s character, we find him, on the 13th of September next, superseding Pembroke by John de Bretagne, Earl of Richmond.

The capricious weakness of the young King made Bruce stronger by comparison: it alienated from the former many of his own subjects, and rendered the war distasteful to them; and not a few Scottish barons, who had been overawed by the mental as well as military power of the father, were led to despise the son, and throw off his feeble yoke. At this period the Castle of Dumfries was held by the English, Bruce having long before been forced to give it up; and, for about the eighth time since the date of the first invasion, the town and neighbouring territory changed masters. But the period for their ultimate deliverance was drawing near. Since the victory at Loudon-hill, in May, 1307, Bruce’s career was, in spite of a few temporary checks, “upwards and onwards.” A great step was made towards the liberation of the south by a victorious raid made by his brother Edward into Galloway, which province was subject to the English, not in virtue of any conquest, but because its chiefs gave a qualified submission to the usurping King, owing in a great degree to their hatred of Bruce.

Twice the gallant Prince defeated the Gallovidians, with their English ally St. John. He then stormed, with characteristic impetuosity, the Castle of Buittle, seized several other fortlets, expelled their garrisons, native or foreign, and did not sheathe his successful sword till the whole of Galloway had submitted to his brother, Robert I. The province thus annexed to the Crown was given in feu to its conqueror; and in this way another heavy blow was inflicted on the Baliols and Comyns, who owned extensive estates in Galloway. [Fordun, p. 1005; Dalrymple’s Annals, p. 25.]

Seven years after the first time when King Robert opened up a passage by fire into the Castle of Dumfries (on the fateful 10th of February, 1305), the ring of his battle-axe on its gates again demanded admission, in language which the Southern garrison, under Henry de Bello Monte (Lord Beaumont), [Henri de Bello Monte, Constabul Castri sui de Dumfres, vel ejus locum tenenti ibidem saltim. – Rotuli Scotiœ, 1311.] could neither misunderstand nor refuse. [Fordun, vol. iv., p. 1606.] In reply to a similar summons, the fortress of Dalswinton also surrendered; and in due time the Castles of Lochmaben and Tibbers were wrested from the enemy. [Dalrymple’s Annals, p. 36; Redpath’s Border History, p. 240.] Carlaverock, till the following year, 1313, held out against the patriot King; and, curious to relate, its Lord, Sir Eustace de Maxwell, seems to have been subsidized by Edward II., as existing records show that, on the 30th of April, 1312, the English sovereign agreed to grant him £22 yearly for keeping the stronghold. [Dalrymple, p. 96.] Sir Eustace, however, saw reason to repent of the bargain that had been made; and the grant, if paid once, was not paid a second time. In about a year after the above date, he gave up the castle to his rightful King; and with its tenure the last remaining tie that bound Nithsdale to the tyrannical invaders was broken. The district became free. Annandale also received full deliverance; and on the 24th of June, 1314, the rest of Scotland was liberated, and the independence of the kingdom was triumphantly secured, by the glorious victory of Bannockburn.

After a brief rest from the protracted toils of war, the King proceeded to regulate the internal affairs of the country. In doing so, he proved as wise in the cabinet as he was heroic in the field. So many forfeitures had taken place during the struggle with England, that he found himself in the position of one who has conquered a foreign territory, and is free to recognize the bravery of his followers by dividing it amongst them. With the extensive lands that had reverted to the Crown, Bruce had the means of amply rewarding the chiefs who had been true to him and their country during the contest.

In Dumfriesshire nearly a total change was made in the ownership of property. The Comyns were thoroughly dispossessed. Dalswinton Castle and Manor were given to Walter Stewart, third son of Sir John Stewart of Bonkill, who fell at the battle of Falkirk. The estate of Duncow was assigned to Sir Robert Boyd, ancestor of the Earls of Kilmarnock. Douglasdale was restored to Sir James Douglas; and there were added to his domains almost the whole of Eskdale and other parts of Dumfriesshire. The King’s hereditary lordship of Annandale, with the Royal Castle of Lochmaben, was conferred upon Sir Thomas Randolph, in addition to the barony of Morton, inherited by him as the lineal descendant of Dunegal, Lord of Stranith. [Caledonia, vol. iii., p. 64.] Several minor changes were made: a charter, dated in the sixteenth year of the King’s reign, conferred the lands of Kilnorduff, Torthorwald, and Roucan on Humphrey Kirkpatrick; another of the same date gave the estate of Penersax to Stephen Kirkpatrick; and by one dated Lochmaben, 4th June, 1320, Thomas, the son of Sir Roger, received the manor of Bridburgh, in recognition of his own and his father’s services. Wherever, in other cases, there was fidelity to acknowledge, or little fault to find, the old families regained their former position. Even Sir Eustace Maxwell, though he had long remained in the interest of England, was liberally dealt with. He had, as we have seen, joined the patriots some time before their closing victory; and Bruce, taking this circumstance into account, and over looking his former unfaithfulness, gave him back his lands and Castle of Carlaverock.

From the date of Bannockburn till that of the King’s death, a period of fifteen years, the nation enjoyed almost unbroken repose, and a prosperity that reminded the old inhabitants of the golden days of Alexander III. To no part of the country was this season of peace more acceptable than to Dumfriesshire. Some counties in Scotland suffered comparatively little from the English usurpation, on account of being remote from the enemy’s usual route of march; but the districts watered by the Esk, the Annan, and the Nith, from their frontier position, became the highway of the invading armies, and a debatable territory, on which, for fully twenty years, the destructive controversy of the sword went on with little intermission. No industrial employment could be attended to. The fields were left untilled – few herds or flocks, and little produce of the soil, would be left after the Southern hordes had repeatedly harried the country; and how the inhabitants managed to ward off the attacks of famine, remains to us a mystery. The produce of the woods and rivers would be their chief dependence; and the license which war gives to plunder would be used by many in the absence of more legitimate means for procuring a livelihood. As episodes in the war, there would be numerous freebooting forays into Cumberland, leading to retaliatory expeditions, all combining, with the war itself, to reduce society on both sides of the Border into a chaotic state. It was part of the invaders’ atrocious policy to terrify the people by burning or otherwise destroying such goods as they could not carry off with them; and they sometimes, by this locust-like mode of procedure, overreached themselves.

When the predatory forces of the English were at times reduced to a state of privation, the people whom they ravaged must have suffered still more severely. Municipal government in Dumfries would, in these fighting days, dwindle down to a dead letter; the town would be ruled by martial law, administered now by St. John after the English fashion – then by Wallace, Bruce, or other Scottish baron, in a milder form – then once more by the rough-handed invaders: so that the Provost and his colleagues of the Council, if such officials were chosen at all, in the terms of King William’s charters, would have little say in the management of town affairs. Dumfries, in fact, would be turned into a camp: her craftsmen, during two-thirds of a generation, would be unable, except by fits and starts, as it were, to pursue the occupations which flourished in the “piping times of peace – her merchants would have to close their premises for want of customers, or to keep out those unwelcome ones who took goods on trust, never intending to pay for them. Of all the industrial orders, the smiths alone – whose proud boast it was, that

                                                “By hammer in hand
                                                  All arts do stand” –

Would drive a prosperous trade; the other fretting in idleness, or doing military service – many of them for, and some of them against, the interests of their country.

In the course of the auspicious reign which proceeded these times of trouble, Dumfries was a growing town, increasing in size, population, and opulence. But the English usurpation checked its progress. With many houses reduced to ruin – with lines of streets partially burned down – with its Castle half dismantled, its Monastery deserted, and its external defences sadly perforated – it must, at the close of war, have looked like the ghost of the town which the good King Alexander is said to have viewed with admiration when directing from it his enterprise against the Isle of Man. As sleep “knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,” so peace filled up the mural breaches of the town, and rebuilt its shattered tenements; and if ever Robert Bruce, after reigning in glory for a few years, had the curiosity to visit his native district, and the place where the first blow for freedom was struck, he would rejoice in the verdant aspect of the country, no longer dyed with blood and desolated by strife, and in the revived prosperity of the town when free from the presence of “grim-visaged war.” Happy were these fifteen years of repose for Scotland at large! Scarcely, however, had the ashes of the illustrious Bruce turned cold, when the wasting fires of war were once more lighted up anew.

An English king (Edward III.) was the promoter of this fresh conflagration. His instruments, Edward Baliol, son of the competitor, and the Lords Beaumont and De Wake, whom Bruce had deprived of their lands in Scotland, on the plea that, as English subjects, they were likely to prove disloyal to his authority, and who sought to regain what they had lost by the sword. Lord John de Wake claimed as his rightful inheritance that piece of territory in the south-east of Dumfriesshire, which soon afterwards became famous as “The Debatable Land.” That it originally formed part of Scotland is unquestionable; [In a treaty between the kingdoms, of date 1249, it was stipulated, that when an inhabitant of the one charged an inhabitant of the other with the theft of cattle, the person accused was either to vindicate his character by single combat with his accuser, or bring the stolen animals to the frontier streams of Tweed or Esk, and drive them into the waters – a clear proof that England at that time had no claim to the Debatable Land.]; and, indeed, a large portion of Cumberland was, for several centuries prior to the reign of Alexander II., attached to that kingdom, except for a short period, when William the Conqueror took it from the Scots and divided it among his Norman followers, granting the barony of Lydall or Liddel to a knight named De Eastonville, from whom it descended by marriage to the De Wakes. This barony comprised the lands of Esk, Arthuret, Stubhill, Carwindlow, Speireike, Randolph, Livington, Easton, North Easton, and Breconhill, all on the eastern or Cumberland side of the River Esk; and though some modern historians have assumed that Kirkandrews was also included, we find no statement to that effect in Danton, on whose authority they profess to rely. By the treaty of Northampton, signed by the English and Scottish Commissioners on the 4th of May, 1328, it was stipulated that De Beaumont should receive the lands and earldom of Buchan, claimed by him in right of his wife; and that De Wake should be re-established in his barony of Liddel. The Scottish Regent, Randolph, however, shrunk from giving effect to the agreement [Rymer’s Fœdera, vol. iv., p. 461.]: nor is it surprising that he hesitated since both of these barons were avowedly opposed to the independence of the kingdom – had leagued themselves against it with Baliol; and if Buchan fell into the hands of one English lord, it would afford an easy landing-place for an invading enemy; while if another were allowed to settle down on the Scottish side of the Esk, the western frontier would be deprived of its chief natural defence.

Strange to say, though the triumvirate who conducted this enterprise had only a very small force, amounting at first to barely five hundred men, they succeeded in temporarily over-turning the fabric of Scottish independence, which had been built up at such a lavish outlay of blood and treasure. Landing at Kinghorn, on the Frith of Forth, they defeated the Earl of Fife, who vainly endeavoured to drive them back to their ships, or into the sea. They then, after being strongly reinforced, routed a much larger body, under the Earl of Mar, on Dupplin Moor; and, as a consequence of these and other triumphs, the pretender Baliol was crowned Deputy-King of Scotland, at Scone, on the 24th of September, 1332. The reader may well wonder at this result, brought about by such seemingly slender means, and that, too, in the short space of three weeks. It would have been impossible, if the invaders had not been greatly strengthened by the native Baliol party, still numerous in Scotland – or if their opponents had been favoured with

                                                “One hour of Wallace wight,
                                    Or well-skilled Bruce, to rule and fight” –

or had Douglas not fallen a year before, in an encounter with the Saracens, when bearing his royal master’s heart to the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem – or had Randolph, Regent of the kingdom during the minority of Bruce’s successor, been still alive.

After a brief inglorious pause, men actuated by the spirit of these heroes appeared upon the scene to give a new current to public events; and once more the tide of battle, surging in Dumfriesshire, turned again in favour of freedom. Baliol, at his coronation, came under an obligation to rule the country in the name of his patron and liege lord, Edward III.; and when passing southward, for the purpose of extending his influence, he, at Roxburgh, solemnly ratified this engagement. He knew that he had no chance of retaining the crown many months, except by support from England; and that having been assured to him, as the price of his country’s independence, his mind was set at ease, and, when lying encamped on the Burgh Moor, at Annan, lapped in fancied security, he indulged in lofty aspirations, unconscious that an agency was at work that would cause them to topple over like a castle of cards. Sir Andrew Murray, of Bothwell [The Regent, like the Murrays of Cockpool and of Murraythwaite, was descended from Freskin, a Flemish gentleman who settled in Linlithgowshire during the twelfth century. (See p. 34.)], who married Christopher Seton’s widow, and was therefore the brother-in-law of King Robert, having been chosen Regent by the supporters of the Brucian family, proved worthy of his position at this crisis of the national cause.

A thousand horsemen under Archibald Douglas, Lord of Galloway, third brother of Sir James Douglas, John Randolph, Earl of Moray, son of the deceased Regent, and Simon Frazer, the tried friend of Bruce, were sent by Murray into Annandale, in order to watch the movements of Baliol. On arriving in the neighbourhood of Moffat, they were apprised by scouts that the puppet King had turned his camp into a court, and that military discipline had given way to revelry and mirth. This was welcome news to the patriots. That very afternoon, the 16th of December, they were hurrying down the dale as fast as their fleet steeds could bear them; and, as they drew near Annan, were guided to their destination by the glimmering lights, and also, by the bacchanalian sounds that emanated from the encampment. Stealthily crossing “Annan Water, wide and deep,” they fell upon the enemy about midnight with the force of an avalanche. King Baliol was in bed, literally dreaming over again, it may be, the visions that had delighted him in his waking hours. Shouts of defiance, screams of terror, shrieks of agony, mad cries for mercy – could these sounds be the discordant medley of a hideous dream, following in horrible contrast upon the pleasant fancies that had preceded them? The royal sleeper awoke to find his camp assailed by a merciless foe, and his followers, who had on the previous day vowed to him everlasting fidelity, making but a feeble resistance – able, indeed, to offer scarcely any, as they were only half awake, and many of them naked, with neither sword nor buckler. Short and fearful was the fight; long and more terrible was the slaughter. With scarcely the rag of a royal robe to cover him from the cold, the miserable mimic of a king threw himself upon a cart horse, unfurnished with either saddle or bridle, and in this fashion galloped for bare life fifteen miles, stopping not till he reached Carlisle. [Wyntoun, vol. ii., p. 159; Hume’s House of Douglas, p. 80; and Redpath’s Border History, p. 302.] His brother Henry, Lord Walter Comyn, and many other persons of rank, were slain in the fray or during the fight, with many hundreds of common soldiers, the assailants losing very few of their number. [About a mile from Moffat, on the side of the Beattock Road, may be seen an antique triple memorial, termed “The Three Stan’in’ Stanes,” which some authorities consider were raised on the site of this battle, to commemorate the officers slain there on the English side. Such an idea is quite untenable. While Buchanan states that the patriot army rendezvoused “prope Mophetam,” near Moffat, he does not say that the conflict took place in the vicinity of that village; and the Chronicle of Lanercost distinctly fixes the locality thus – “Usque ad villam Annandiæ, que est in marchia inter regna,” the town of Annan, which is on the march between the kingdoms. Besides, it is assumed in the idea that the nobles who fell were buried on the field, whereas Baliol obtained the bodies, and would doubtless cause them to be interred in consecrated ground. “The Three Stan’in’ Stanes” are probably of Druidical origin.]

Return to Book Index


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus