Edward Bruce in Ireland
SIR EDWARD BRUCE, the
Earl of Carrick, who was bolder than a leopard, and had no desire to be
at peace, thought Scotland too small for his brother and himself;
therefore he set his purpose to be King of Ireland. To this end he
entered into treaty with the Irish, and they on their honour undertook
to make him king, provided that he, by hard fighting, could overcome the
English then dwelling in the country; and they promised to help him with
all their might.
When he heard this
promise he had great joy in his heart, and with consent of the king
gathered to him men of great valour, and taking ship at Ayr in the next
month of May, sailed straight to Ireland.
He had in his company the
valiant Earl Thomas, and good Sir Philip the Mowbray, trusty in hard
assault, Sir John Soulis, a good knight, and the doughty Sir John
Stewart, as well as the Ramsay of Auchterhouse, right able and
chivalrous, with Sir Fergus of Ardrossan, and many another knight.
They arrived safely in
Wavering Firth [Now Lough Lame] without skirmish or attack, and sent
their ships every one home. It was a great enterprise they undertook,
when, few as they were, being no more than six thousand men, they set
out to attack all Ireland, where many thousands were ready armed to
fight them. But though they were few, they were valiant, and without
doubt or fear they set forth in two battles towards Carrickfergus, to
But the lords of that
country, Mandeville, Bysset, and Logan, assembled their men every one.
De Savage also was there. Their whole gathering was wellnigh twenty
When they knew that the
Scottish host had arrived in their country, they hastened towards it
with all their following. And when Sir Edward knew of a certainty that
they were coming near him, he set his men in their strongest array. The
Earl Thomas had the vanguard, and the rearguard was under Sir Edward.
Their enemies drew near
to battle, and they met them without flinching. Then was to be seen a
great melee. Earl Thomas and his host drove so doughtily at their foes,
that in a short time a hundred were to be seen lying all bloody. The
Irish horses, when they were stabbed, reared and flung, and made great
room, and threw their riders. Sir Edward's company then stoutly joined
the battle, and all their enemies were driven back. If a man happened to
fall in that fight, it was a perilous chance if he rose again. The Scots
bore themselves so boldly and well in the encounter that their foes were
overwhelmed, and altogether took flight. In that battle were taken or
slain the whole flower of Ulster. The Earl of Moray won great praise
there, for his right valiant feats of arms encouraged his whole company.
That was a right fair
beginning; for being but newly arrived, Sir Edward's host defeated in
open battle enemies who were four for their one. Afterwards they went to
Carrickfergus, and took quarters in the town. The castle was at that
time well and newly furnished with victual and men, and the Scots
forthwith set siege to it. Many a bold sally was made while the siege
lasted, till at length they made a truce.
When the folk of Ulster
came wholly to his peace, and Sir Edward undertook to raid the land
further, there came to him some ten or twelve of the chiefs of that
country, and gave him their fealty. They kept faith with him, however,
only a short while; for two of them, one MacCoolechan and another
MacArthy, beset a place on his way where he must needs pass.
Two thousand spearmen
were got together there and as many archers; and all the cattle of the
country were drawn thither for safety. Men call that place Endwillane;
[Probably the Moiry Pass, in Killevy parish, Armagh.] in all Ireland
there is none more strait. There the Irish kept watch for Sir Edward,
believing he should not escape. But he soon set forth and went straight
towards the spot.
Sir Thomas, Earl of
Moray, who ever put himself first in attack, alighted on foot with his
company, and boldly assailed the fastness. The Irish chiefs of whom I
spoke, and all the folk with them, met him right stubbornly; but he with
his host made such an attack, that despite their efforts he won the
place. Many of the Irish were slain there, and the Scots chased them
throughout the wood, and seized an abundance of prey. So great was this
that all the Scottish host was refreshed well for a week and more.
Sir Edward lay at
Kilnasagart, and there presently he heard that at Dundalk the lords of
that country were assembled for war. There was, first, Sir Richard of
Clare, lieutenant of all Ireland for the King of England. [Edmund Butler
was really the Justiciary or Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland at the time,
though Richard of Clare was a conspicuous figure.] The Earl of Desmond
also was there, and the Earl of Kildare as well, with De Bermingham and
Verdon, lords of great renown. Butler also was with them, and Sir
Maurice FitzThomas. These were come thither with their men, and were in
truth a right great host.
And when Sir Edward knew
of a surety that there was such a knightly company, he forthwith arrayed
his force and set out thither, and took quarters near the town. But
because he knew full well that a great host was in the town, he arrayed
his men, and kept in battle order, to meet the enemy if they should
And when Sir Richard of
Clare, and the other lords in that place, knew that the Scottish battles
were come so near, they took counsel and agreed not to fight that night,
because it was late, but determined that on the morrow, immediately
after sunrise, they should sally forth with their whole force.
Accordingly that night they did no more, but each side kept its
That night the Scottish
company kept right careful watch, all in order, and on the morrow at
daylight they arrayed themselves in two battles, and stood with banners
all displayed, ready prepared for the fight.
Those within the town,
when the sun was risen and shining clear, sent forth fifty of their
number to spy the order and advance of the Scots. These rode forth and
soon saw them; then came again without delay. And when they were
alighted together they told their lords that the Scots seemed to be
valiant and of right great nobleness. "But of a surety," they said,
"they are not half a dinner for us here!"
The lords at these
tidings were greatly rejoiced and reassured, and caused the order to go
throughout the city that all should quickly arm themselves. And when
they were armed and ready and all arrayed for the fight, they went forth
in good order.
They soon came in touch
with their foes, who were watching for them right boldly. Then a fierce
battle began, for either side set all its strength to overwhelm its foes
in the fight, and each charged the other with all its force. The furious
struggle lasted long, while none could see or know who was likely to be
uppermost. From soon after sunrise till after midday the fighting lasted
thus doubtful; but at length the stout Sir Edward, with the whole of his
company, rushed so furiously upon the enemy that they could no longer
endure the battle. With broken ranks they all took flight, followed
right keenly by the Scots. Mixed all together the two hosts entered the
town. There a cruel slaughter was to be seen, for the right noble Earl
Thomas followed the chase with his host, and made such a butchery in the
place, and such fierce slaughter, that the streets were all bloody with
slain men. But the English lords got all away.
When the town, as I have
told, was stormed, and all their foes were fled or slain, the Scots
quartered in the place. There was in it such plenty of victual, and such
great abundance of wine, that the good Earl feared greatly lest his men
should be drunken, and in their drunkenness come to blows; therefore he
appointed a free gift of wine to be paid to each man, and of a surety
they had all enough. That night they were right well at ease, and right
glad of the great renown begotten by their valour.
After this fight they
sojourned there in Dundalk three days and more, then they set forth
southward. The Earl Thomas ever rode in front, and as they marched
through the country they could see upon the hills a marvellous number of
men. But when the Earl would sturdily make towards them with his banner,
they would flee, all that were there, and none abide to fight.
The Scots rode southward
till they came to a great forest, Kilross it was called, and they all
took their quarters there.
Meantime Richard of
Clare, the English king's lieutenant over all the baronage of Ireland,
had got together a great host. There were five battles great and broad,
and they sought Sir Edward and his men, and were by this time come very
He soon got knowledge
that they were coming upon him, and were so near, and he led his men
against them, and boldly took the open field. Then the Earl rode forward
to espy, and he sent Sir Philip the Mowbray and Sir John Stewart forward
to discover the way the English were taking. Soon they saw the host
coming at hand. They were, at a guess, fifty thousand strong. Then the
knights rode back to Sir Edward, and said the enemy were right many.
"The more they be," he
answered, "the more honour altogether have we, if we bear us manfully.
We are set here at bay, and to win honour or die. We are too far from
home to flee; therefore let each man be valiant. Yonder host are the
scourings of the country, and if they be manfully assailed they shall
easily, I trow, be made to flee."
All then said they should
do well. With that the English battles, ten thousand strong, approached
near, ready to fight, and the Scots met them with great force. The Scots
were all on foot, and their enemies on steeds well equipped, some
covered wholly with iron and steel. But the Scots at the encounter
pierced the English armour with spears, and stabbed the horses, and bore
down the men. A fierce battle then took place. I cannot tell all their
strokes, nor who caused his enemy to fall in the battle; but in a short
time, I warrant, the English were so overwhelmed that they durst no more
abide, but scattered all of them and fled, leaving dead on the
battlefield very many of their good men. The field was all strewn with
weapons, armour, and dead men.
That great host was
fiercely overthrown, but Sir Edward let no man pursue. With the
prisoners they had captured the Scots went again to the wood, where
their harness was left, and that night they made merry cheer, and
praised God earnestly for His grace.
This good knight, who was
so valiant, might well be likened in that fight to Judas Maccabeus. No
number of enemies caused him to retreat so long as he had one man
Thus was Richard of Clare
repulsed with his great host. Nevertheless he kept diligently gathering
men about him, for he thought still to recover his overthrow. It grieved
him wondrous much that he had been twice discomfited in battle by a
And the Scots, who had
ridden into the forest to take rest, lay there two nights, and made
themselves mirth, solace, and play. Then they rode to meet O'Dempsy, an
Irish chief who had made oath of fealty to Sir Edward; for previously he
had prayed him to visit his country, and had promised that no victual
nor anything that could help should be lacking to the Scottish host.
Sir Edward trusted in his
promise, and rode straight thither with his rout. O'Dempsy caused him to
cross a great river, and in a right fair place, low by a lough edge,
[Professor Skeat conclusively shows the 'great river' to have been the
Blackwater, and the lough edge the western shore of Lough Neagh.] he
made them take their quarters, and said he would go and have victual
brought to them. He departed without more delay, for his plan was to
betray them. He had brought them to a place from which all the cattle
had been withdrawn full two days' journey and more, so that in all that
country they could get nothing sufficient to eat. His plan was to weaken
them with hunger, then bring their enemies upon them.
This false traitor had
caused his men to dam the outlet of a lough a little above the place
where he had quartered Sir Edward and the Scots, and in the night he let
it out. The water then came down on Sir Edward's men with such force
that they were in peril of being drowned ere they knew they were in the
midst of a flood. With great difficulty they got away, and by God's
grace kept their lives, but much of their armour was lost there.
Of a truth O'Dempsy made
them no brave feast, nevertheless they had enough. For though they
lacked meat, I warrant they had plenty to drink. They were bested there
in great distress, for they had great want of victual, being set between
two rivers, and able to cross none of them. The Bann, which is an arm of
the sea, and cannot be crossed with horses, was betwixt them and Ulster.
They had been in great peril there, were it not for a rover of the sea,
Thomas of Down he was called. He heard that the host was thus straitly
bested, and he sailed up the Bann till he came very near the place where
they lay. They knew him well, and were glad. With four ships that he had
seized he set them every one across the Bann; and when they came to
inhabited land they found victual and meat enough, and quartered
themselves in a wood. None of the Irish knew where the Scots lay, and
Sir Edward's men took their ease, and made good cheer.
At that time Richard of
Clare and the great chiefs of Ireland were quartered with a vast host on
a forest side near the Scots. Each day they sent riders to bring victual
of many kinds from the town of Connor, full ten Irish miles away. Each
day, as these riders came and went, they passed within two miles of the
Scottish host. And when Earl Thomas had knowledge of their coming and
their gathering, he got him a good company of three hundred active and
bold horsemen. There were Sir Philip the Mowbray, and also for certain
Sir John Stewart, with Sir Allan Stewart, Sir Gilbert Boyd, and others.
They rode to meet the victuallers, who were making their way with the
provisions from Connor to their host, and so suddenly dashed on them
that they were wholly discomfited, and let fall all their weapons, and
piteously cried for mercy. Thereupon the Scots gave them quarter, but
made such clean capture that not one of them all escaped.
The Earl learned from
them that a part of their host would come out in the evening at the
woodside, and ride towards their victual. He thought then upon an
exploit. He caused his whole following to dress themselves in the
prisoners' array. Their pennons also they took with them, and waited
till it was near night, and then rode towards the English host. Some of
the host saw them coming, and fully supposed they were their victuallers.
Therefore they rode in disorder towards them, having no suspicion that
they were their enemies, and being sore hungered besides. For that
reason they came on recklessly. And when they were near, the Earl and
all who were with him rushed upon them at great speed with bare weapons,
shouting their battle-cries. And the English, seeing their foes thus
suddenly drive at them, were affrighted, and had no heart to help
themselves, but made off towards their host.
The Scots made chase and
slew many, so that all the field was strewn with them, more than a
thousand being slain. They chased them right up to their host, and then
again went their way. In this fashion the victual was seized, and many
of the English were slain. Then the Earl and his company brought the
prisoners and provisions to Sir Edward, who was blithe of their coming.
That night the Scots made merry cheer, being all then fully at their
ease, and guarded securely.
Their enemies, on the
other hand, when they heard how their men had been slain, and their
victual all seized, took counsel, and determined to set out towards
Connor and take quarters in the city. They did this in great haste, and
rode to the city by night. There they found provisions in great plenty,
and made good and merry cheer, for all trusted in the town where they
Upon the morrow they sent
to espy where the Scots had taken quarters. But the spies were all met
and seized, and brought to the Scottish host. The Earl of Moray quietly
asked one of their company where their host was, and what they planned
to do, telling him if he found that he told him the truth he should go
home ransom free.
"Of a truth," the man
said, "I shall tell you. Their plan is, to-morrow at daybreak, to seek
you with their whole host if they can get knowledge where ye be. They
have sent word throughout the country that all the men of this region,
on right cruel pain of their lives, betake themselves this night to the
city. Of a truth there shall be so many that ye shall in no wise cope
"Par Dieu," said the
Earl, "that may be so!"
With that he went to Sir
Edward and told him the whole tale. Then they took counsel all together,
and determined to ride to the city that same night, so as to lie with
all their host between the town and those outside. They did as they
devised; they came presently. before the town, and rested but half a
mile from it.
And when daylight dawned,
fifty Irish on active ponies came to a little hill a short space from
the town, and saw Sir Edward's place of quartering. They marvelled at
the sight, how so few durst in any wise undertake so high an enterprise
as to come thus boldly upon the whole great chivalry of Ireland to do
battle. This was the truth without fail, for opposed to them were
gathered there with the warden, Richard of Clare, the Butler, and the
two Earls, of Desmond and Kildare, with Bermingham, Verdon, and
Fitz-Warenne, as well as Sir Pascal, a Florentine, and knight of
Lombardy, renowned for feats of arms. The Mandevilles were also there,
the Byssetts, Logans, and others besides, the Savages as well, and one
called Sir Nicol of Kilkenan. And with these lords were so many men
that, I trow, for one of the Scots they were five or more.
When the scouts had thus
seen the Scottish host, they went in haste, and told their lords all
plainly how the Scots were come near, so that there was no need to go
far to seek them.
And when the Earl Thomas
saw that these men had been on the hill, he took with him a good company
of horsemen—there might be a hundred of them—and made his way to the
hill. They made an ambush in a hollow place, and in a short time they
saw a company of scouts come riding from the city. At that they were
blithe, and kept themselves secret till the scouts were come near. Then
with a rush all who were there dashed boldly upon them.
The scouts, seeing them
thus suddenly come on, were dismayed. Some of them kept their ground
stoutly to make fight, while the others fled; but in a right short time
those who made halt were overcome so that they altogether turned their
backs. The Scots pursued right to the gate, and slew a great number,
then went again to their host.