King Robert in Ireland
WHEN Sir Edward by his
valiant prowess had three times defeated Richard of Clare and the whole
baronage of Ireland, and afterwards, with all his men of might, was come
again to Carrickfergus, Thomas, the good Earl of Moray, took his leave
to pass into Scotland. Sir Edward gave him leave reluctantly, and
charged him especially to pray the king to come to see him in Ireland,
for were they both in that country, he said, none should withstand them.
The Earl took his
departure and went to his ships, and passing over sea soon arrived in
Scotland. Forthwith he went to the king, who received him gladly, and
inquired how his brother fared and of his doings in Ireland; and the
Earl told him truly all that had taken place.
When the king had done
asking, the Earl gave him his message, and the Bruce said he would
gladly see his brother, and also all belonging to that country and the
war there. He then gathered a great host, and appointed two lords of
great valour, Walter Stewart and James of Douglas, to be wardens in his
absence, and to defend the country. Then he set out for the sea, and at
Lochryan in Galloway took ship with all his following, and soon came to
Sir Edward was blithe at
his coming, and went swiftly down to meet him, and welcomed him with
gladsome cheer. He did the same to all who were with the king, and
especially his nephew Thomas, Earl of Moray. And they went to the
castle, and lie made them much feasting and good fare. They sojourned
there for three days in great mirth and royal state.
In this wise King Robert
arrived in Ireland, and when lie had sojourned with his men three days
in Carrickfergus, they took counsel, and determined to make their way
with their whole host through all Ireland from one end to the other.
Sir Edward, the king's
brother, rode in front with the vanguard. The king himself had the
rearguard, and in his company had the valiant Earl Thomas. They took
their way forth, and soon passed Endwillane. It was the month of May,
when birds on the bough sing many a different note for the softness of
that sweet season, when the branches are covered with leaves and bright
blossoms, the fields are gay with sweet-smelling many-coloured flowers,
and all things become blithe and glad. At that season the good king rode
forth. [According to Hailes, king Robert's Irish campaign took place in
the autumn and early spring of 1316-17.]
The warden, Richard of
Clare, knew that the king had arrived, and learned that he purposed to
march towards the south country. He gathered to him out of all Ireland a
right great armed host of squires, burghers, and yeomanry, to the number
of nigh forty thousand. Yet he would not venture to fight his enemies
all together in open field, but bethought him of a stratagem. He planned
that he, with all that great host, should privily make ambush in a wood
by the way side, where the Scots must march, and that they should let
the vanguard pass to a distance, and then fall boldly with all their men
upon the rearguard.
They did as he devised,
and took ambush in a wood. The Scottish van rode past them close at
hand, while the Irish made no showing of themselves. Sir Edward rode a
long way to the front with his host, taking no heed to the rearguard.
And when Sir Edward had passed by, Sir Richard of Clare sent active
yeomen who could shoot well to skirmish on foot with the rearguard. Now,
two of the men sent out skirmished at the wood- side, and shot arrows
among the Scots.
The king had with him
five thousand active and bold men, and when he saw these two come so
nigh, and recklessly shoot among them, he judged right well that of a
certainty they had support very near. Accordingly he gave order that no
man should be so reckless as ride at them, but that all should keep
close together, and ride ever in battle order, ready to make defence if
they should be attacked, "For we shall soon, I warrant, have to deal
with more of them."
But Sir Colin Campbell,
[The king's nephew, son of Lady Mary Bruce and Sir Neil Campbell,
Bruce's early adherent, ancestor of the house of Argyll.] who was near
by the place where these two yeomen were boldly shooting, spurred on
them at full speed, and soon overtook one and slew him with his spear.
The other turned, and shot again, and slew Sir Cohn's horse. With that
the Bruce came hastily, and, in great displeasure, with a truncheon that
was in his hand, gave Sir Colin a stroke that sent him crashing down on
his saddle-bow. Then he bade them quickly pull him down; but other lords
who were there in some measure appeased the king.
"Disobedience," said the
Bruce, "might bring about our discomfiture. Think ye yonder rascals
durst assail us so near our host unless they had support at hand? Right
well am I assured that we shall have enough to do presently; therefore
let each man look to it that he be ready."
With that some thirty
bowmen came and skirmished, and hurt a number of the king's men; till
the Bruce caused his archers to drive them back with arrows. By this
time the Scots entered an open field, and saw forty thousand men arrayed
in four battles against them.
"Now, sirs," said the
king, "let us see who shall prove valiant in this fight! On them
So stoutly then did the
Scots ride at them, and so hardily did they join battle, that a great
number of their foes were brought to the ground at the first encounter.
Then was heard a dreadful breaking of spears, and mighty noise of onset,
as each side rode against the other. Horses came crashing head against
head, so that many fell lifeless to the ground. Many an active and
valiant man, as one ran upon the other, was stricken dead to the earth.
The red blood poured from many a wound in such great quantity that the
streams ran with it. Both sides, filled with rage and hate, drove at
each other boldly with their bare flashing weapons, and many a strong
man was slain on the spot. For those that were bold and active pressed
to be foremost, and fight face to face with their foes. There, I
warrant, many a cruel conflict and stern battle was to be seen.
In all the Irish war was
no such hard fighting known. In less than three years Sir Edward won
nineteen great victories, and in sundry of these battles he vanquished
twenty thousand men and more, with horses mailed to the feet. But at all
these times he bad at least one against five. In this struggle the king
had always eight enemies to one of his own men. But he so bore himself
that his brave feats and his valour encouraged all his host, and the
most faint-hearted was made bold. Wherever he saw the battle thickest he
rode most boldly into it, and ever made room about him, slaying all he
could overtake, and furiously driving them back.
The valiant Earl Thomas
was at all times near him, and fought as if he were mad. From the
prowess of these two their men took mighty hardihood. They shunned no
danger, but demeaned themselves most stoutly, and so boldly drove at the
enemy that their foes were all dismayed. Then the Scots, seeing by their
looks that the enemy somewhat avoided the fight, dashed against them
with all their strength, and pressed them so hard with blows, that at
last they gave way. And now, seeing them take flight, they charged them
with all their force, and slew many as they fled.
The king's men so pursued
them that they were every one scattered. Richard of Clare made his way
at the utmost speed to Dublin, with other lords that fled beside him.
There they garrisoned both the castle and the towns in their possession.
So desperately were they daunted that I trow Richard of Clare had no
desire to prove his strength in battle or skirmish while King Robert and
his host tarried in that country. They kept within garrison in this
And the king, who was so
much to be prized, saw in the field right many slain. And one of the
prisoners, who was bravely arrayed, he saw weep wondrous tenderly. He
asked him why he made such cheer, and the prisoner answered, "Sir, of a
surety it is no marvel that I weep. I see here stricken under foot the
flower of all the North of Ireland, boldest of heart and hand, and most
doughty in fierce attack."
"By my faith," said the
king, "thou art wrong. Thou hast more cause to make mirth, since thou
hast thus escaped death."
In this fashion Richard
of Clare and all his following were overthrown by a slender host. And
when the bold Edward Bruce knew that the king had fought thus with so
great a host and he away, there could have been seen no more wrathful
man. But the good king told him the fault lay in his own folly, by
reason that he rode so heedlessly and far ahead, and made no vanguard to
them of the rear. "In war," he said, "those who ride in the van should
at no time press far from sight of the rear, else great peril may
Of this battle we shall
speak no more. The king and all who were with him rode forward in better
array and nearer together than they did before. They rode openly through
all the land, but found none to say them nay. They rode even before
Drogheda and before Dublin, but found none to give battle. Then they
went further inland, and held their way south to Limerick, which is the
southmost town in Ireland. There they lay for two or three days, and got
ready again for the march.
And when they were all
ready the king heard a woman's cry, and forthwith asked what that was.
"Sir," said some one, "it
is a laundress who just now has been seized with labour, and whom we
must leave here behind us. For this reason she makes yonder evil cheer."
"Certes," said the king,
"it were shame that she should be left in that strait! Of a surety he is
no man I trow who will not pity a woman then."
At that he halted his
whole host, and caused a tent to be pitched, and made her go into it,
and bade other women stay beside her till her child was born, and gave
order before he left how she should be carried with the host. Then be
rode forward on his way. It was a right sovereign courtesy for so great
and so mighty a king to cause his men to tarry in this fashion for a
poor humble laundress. They marched northward again, and passed athwart
all Ireland, through Munster and Connaught right to Dublin, and through
all Meath and Uriel, [Now the counties of Louth and Monaghan.] as well
as Leinster, and afterwards through the whole of Ulster to Carrickfergus.
They fought no battle in all that march, for there was none that durst
attack them. And all the Irish chiefs, except one or two, came to Sir
Edward and did homage to him. Then they each went home again to their
own districts, undertaking to do in everything the bidding of Sir
Edward, whom they called their king.
He was now well on the
way to conquer the whole land, for he had the Irish and Ulster on his
side, and he was so far advanced in his war that lie had passed with
force of arms through all Ireland from end to end. Could he have
governed himself with reason, and not followed his impulses too fast,
but have been moderate in his actions, it seems almost certain that he
should have conquered the whole country of Ireland. But his extravagant
pride and his wilfulness, which was more than boldness, prevented his
intent, as I shall hereafter describe.
Here now we leave the
noble king at his ease and pleasure, and speak of the Lord Douglas, who
was left to keep the marches. He had crafty wrights brought, and caused
them to make a fair manor in the meadow of Lintalee, [The spot, which
has been already referred to, is still pointed out in the old Jed
Forest, a few miles to the south of Jedburgh.] and when the houses were
built he brought thither ample provision, for he meant to have a
house-warming, and make good cheer to his men.
There was then dwelling
at Richmond an Earl called Sir Thomas. [The expedition here described
was in reality led by the Earl of Arundel; Sir Thomas of Richmond, who
was slain by Douglas, was not its leader, nor was he an earl. He was a
knight of Yorkshire.] Moved with envy at Douglas, he said that if his
banner could be seen displayed in the field he should soon attack it. He
heard how Douglas intended to make a feast at Lintalee, and he had full
knowledge also that the king, with Thomas, Earl of Moray, and a great
host, were out of the country. For this reason he thought Scotland scant
of men to withstand a strong attack, and he himself had at that time the
government and command of the Border. He gathered a force till he had
nigh ten thousand men, and he took wood-axes with him, for his plan was
to make his men hew down the whole of Jedwood forest, so that no tree
should be seen there.
They set out on their
march; but the good Lord of Douglas had spies constantly out on every
side, and was well aware that they meant to ride and come suddenly upon
him. In the utmost haste he gathered those that he could of his
following. I trow he had then with him fifty who were valiant and
active, well armed and equipped in all points. He had also with him a
great host of archers.
There was a place on the
way where he knew well the English must pass. It had forest upon either
side; the entrance was right large and wide, and like a shield it
narrowed ever till at one place the way was not a quoit-throw broad. The
Lord of Douglas went thither when he knew the enemy were coming near,
and in a hollow on one side he placed all his archers in ambush. He bade
them keep themselves secret till they heard him raise his battle-cry;
then they were to shoot boldly among their foes, and keep them there
till he passed through; afterwards they were to march forth with him. On
either side of the pass were birch trees growing young and thick. Those
he twisted together in such fashion that men could not easily ride
through them. When this was done he waited upon the other side of the
Richmond came riding in
the first battle in brave array. The Lord Douglas saw everything, and
caused his men to keep still till the enemy came close at hand and
entered the narrow way. Then with a shout, crying aloud, "Douglas!
Douglas!" the Scots dashed upon them.
When Richmond, who was
right valiant, heard the cry thus rise, and plainly saw the banner of
Douglas, he made with speed to the spot. But the Scots came on so boldly
that they made themselves good passage through the midst of their foes,
bearing down to the ground all they met. Richmond was borne down there.
Douglas paused above him, and turned him over, and with a dagger took
his life on the spot. On his helmet Richmond wore a hat. This Douglas
took with him for a token, for it was of fur. Then he made haste out of
the way and returned again to the Forest.
In that attack the
archers bore their part well, for they shot well and boldly, and the
English host was set in great panic. Then, before they knew, Douglas
suddenly, with all his company, was among them, and pierced them
wellnigh through and through, and had almost finished his exploit before
they could take heed to help themselves.
And when they saw their
lord was slain they took him up and retreated, to withdraw themselves
from the shot. They gathered together in an open place, and because
their lord was dead they made ready to take quarters in that spot for
The doughty Douglas got
knowledge that a clerk Ellis, with nigh three hundred of the enemy, had
gone straight to Lintalee and taken quarters there. He hastened thither
with all his company, and found clerk Ellis at meat, and all his rout
set down about him. The Scots came boldly upon him, and with sharp
swords right quickly did his carving. The English were so wholly cut to
pieces there that wellnigh none escaped. The Scots carved for them to
such purpose, with shearing swords and daggers, that well nigh all lost
their lives. It was a dire side-dish they got, a bellyful more than
Those who by chance
escaped made their way to their host, and told how their men were slain
and how hardly one had escaped. And when the English heard how Douglas
had done, slaying their harbingers and driving themselves back, and
slaying their lord in the midst of his host, there was none of them all
so bold as desire further to attack the Douglas. Accordingly they held a
council, and determined to march homeward. They took their departure,
and made such haste that they soon reached England. The Forest they left
standing; they had no desire to hew it down at that time, especially
while the Douglas was so near a neighbour to them.
When Douglas saw them
retreat he perceived their lord was indeed slain. He knew this also by
the hat he had taken, for one of the prisoners said to him that for a
truth Richmond commonly was wont to wear that fur hat. Douglas at this
was happier than before, for he was assured that Richmond, his cruel
foe, was brought to destruction.
In this wise Sir James of
Douglas, with valour and great daring, gallantly defended the land. This
action, I warrant, was boldly undertaken and right stoutly achieved, for
with no more than fifty armed men he overthrew a host full ten thousand
There were two other
exploits well achieved with fifty men, and sovereignly esteemed above
all other deeds of war done in their time.
This was the first of
three that was boldly accomplished with fifty men. The second befell in
Galloway, when, as ye formerly heard me tell, Sir Edward the Bruce with
fifty followers overthrew Sir Aymer of St. John and fifteen hundred men
all told. The third happened in Eskdale, when Sir John de Soulis was
governor of that region. With fifty men he beset the march of Sir Andrew
Hardelay, who had in his company three hundred excellently mounted men.
Sir John by his hardihood and sovereign valour vanquished them sturdily,
every one, in plain battle, and captured Sir Andrew. The whole manner of
the exploit I will not rehearse, for whoso likes may hear young women
sing it among them every day as they amuse themselves.
These were three valiant
exploits which I trow shall evermore be esteemed in the memory of men.
It is without question most just that the names of those who were so
valiant in their time, and of whose courage and worth men still take
pleasure to hear, should endure in praise for evermore. May He who is
the King of heaven take them up to heaven's bliss, where prayer is
At the time when Richmond
was in this fashion brought to the ground the men of the English coast
near the Humber gathered a great force, and taking ship, sailed for
Scotland, and came suddenly into the Firth. They thought to have
everything at their pleasure, knowing full well that the king and many
of great valour were then far out of the country. Therefore they came
into the Firth, and held their way in a straight course to its western
shore, beside Inverkeithing, near Dunfermline. There they landed and
began busily to ravage.
The Earl of Fife and the
Sheriff saw ships approaching their coast, and gathered a force to
defend their country. And ever, as the ships sailed up the coast, they
marched over against them, intending to prevent the landing of the
enemy. When the shipmen saw them show such array they said among
themselves that the Scots should not hinder their landing. Then they
hastened to the land, and reached it very speedily, and right boldly
The Scots saw them
coming, and were dismayed, and all in a body rode away and let them land
without hindrance. Though near five hundred in number they durst not
fight, but all together withdrew. But while they were thus riding away
without beginning a defence, the good Bishop of Dunkeld, William
Sinclair by name, came in brave fashion with a host of some sixty
horsemen. He himself was fully armed, and rode upon a stalwart steed,
wearing a loose gown above his armour, to cover his array; and his men
were as well armed as he. He met the Earl and the Sheriff retreating
with their great host, and forthwith asked them what pressing business
made them turn so suddenly. They said their foes had landed by main
force and in such number that they deemed them too many, and themselves
too few to deal with them.
When the Bishop heard
this he said, "The king ought to make much of you, who so finely take on
hand to defend the country in his absence! Certes, if he served you
rightly he should forthwith have the gilt spurs hewed from your heels.
Thus should cowards be rightly served. Let him who loves his king and
his country turn smartly now again with me!"
With that he cast off his
bishop's robe, and took in his hand a strong spear, and rode with speed
towards the enemy. All the Scots turned with him, for he had so reproved
them that none of them all went from him. He rode before them sturdily,
and they followed him in close array till they came near the foes who
Some of the English were
massed together in good order, and some had set out to the foray.
When the good Bishop saw
them be said, "Sirs, without doubt or fear prick we boldly upon them,
and we shall have them full easily. If they see us come without dismay
and without stopping they shall right soon be discomfited. Now fight
well, and men shall see who loves the honour of the king to-day."
Then all together in good
order they spurred sturdily upon the enemy. The Bishop, who was right
bold and big and stark, rode ever in front. They joined battle with a
crash, and at the first meeting the English felt so sorely the pricking
of their spears that they gave way and made off. They made in haste
towards their ships, and the Scots pursued fiercely, and slew so many
that all the fields were strewn with English slain, while those that
survived hastened to the sea. In the chase the Scots slew all they could
overtake; and some that fled, in their haste to reach their ships, went
too many on board some of the barges because of the Scots pursuing them,
and, the boats capsizing, the men in them were all drowned.
There it was, I have
heard tell, that an Englishman did a right great feat of strength. When
be was chased to the boat he seized by the two arms a Scotsman who had
laid hands upon him, and, whether he would or not, threw him across his
back, and, despite all his struggles, carried him to the boat and cast
him in. This methinks was a right great feat.
The English who escaped
hastened to their ships, and sailed home vexed and sorrowful that they
had been thus overwhelmed.
When the shipmen were in
this wise discomfited nearly five hundred English lay dead, besides
those that were drowned, and the Bishop who had borne himself so well
and encouraged all who were there remained on the scene of the fight.
And not till the field was plundered bare did the Scots all go home.
High honour befell the Bishop who by his enterprise and valour achieved
this great feat of arms. On account of it the king ever from that day
loved, honoured, and prized him, holding him in such esteem that he
called him "his own Bishop."
Thus they defended the
country upon both sides of the Scottish Sea while the king was away.
Meanwhile the Bruce had
made his way through all Ireland, and come again to Carrickfergus. And
when Sir Edward, in royal fashion, had all the Irish at his bidding, and
all Ulster as well, the king made ready to return home. A great number
of his men, the boldest and most approved in feats of war, he left with
his brother. Then he passed to the beach, and when their leaves were
taken on either side, he went on board, carrying the Earl Thomas with
him, and, setting sail forthwith, arrived without mishap in Galloway.