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This Month in Scottish History
September


3 September 1650
The Battle of Dunbar fought between the English New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell and the mostly lowland Scottish force led by David Leslie. After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, the Scots proclaimed his son King Charles II and rejected Cromwell's appeals to unite with the anti-royalist commonwealth government of England. In July 1650, Cromwell invaded with 16,000 men and tried unsuccessfully to link up with an English supply fleet at several coastal sites. Hemmed in by Scots, he was forced to retreat with his outnumbered, ill supplied, and sick army to port city of Dunbar. Unfortunately, the Scots army was riddled with dissent and purged of its best soldiers by overzealous Covenanting ministers. Goaded to attack rather than attempting to starve Cromwell into submission, Leslie's 20,000 men were routed by Cromwell's more disciplined and better-led army. The Scots suffered about 3,000 killed and 10,000 taken prisoner, with many of the latter forced into labor in England or deported to the American colonies and the West Indies. English losses were minimal and Cromwell was established in Edinburgh by the end of the year.

3 September 1651
The Battle of Worcester, the last of the English civil wars, fought between an invading Scottish army commanded by King Charles II and an English army, including militia, under Oliver Cromwell. Following the defeat at Dunbar, the Scots rebuilt their army by enlisting many Catholic Highlanders but found Cromwell too firmly entrenched in lowland Scotland. Charles gambled on royalist support in England and launched a desperate march with 12,000 men in an attempt to reach London while Cromwell was distracted in Scotland. Lackluster support and English pursuit forced Charles to divert his army to Worcester, a former royalist stronghold, in the West Country near the Welsh border. About 4,000 recruits were obtained there and his now 16,000 men were confronted by Cromwell and some 27,000 English soldiers. The latter, especially the cavalry and including the militia, performed with their usual skill and, as at Dunbar exactly one year before, the unfortunate Scots were slaughtered. Some 2,000 were killed with  6,000 to 10,000 prisoners treated in similar fashion to those taken at Dunbar. Charles himself, much like his great nephew 'Bonnie' Prince Charlie 95 years later, made a daring escape which eventually took him to safety in France. Unlike his great nephew though, Charles II was restored to power in 1660 following the death of Cromwell.

6 September 1876
Birth of John James Richard MacLeod, physiologist and discoverer of Insulin, near Dunkeld, Perthshire. Educated in Medicine at both Aberdeen and Leipzig universities, he moved successively to London, the United States, and Toronto, Canada. He undertook significant research on carbohydrate metabolism, and, later joined by Frederick Banting and Charles Best, initiated a program to examine the role of the pancreas in the body's regulation of sugar levels. The resulting discovery of Insulin led to the awarding of the 1923 Nobel Prize for Medicine to the three men. There was some ambiguity as to MacLeod's exact role in this important discovery and he was subjected to some criticism. In 1928, he returned to Aberdeen University as Professor of Physiology and died there in 1935.

7 September 1836
Birth of British Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, at Glasgow, a son of draper Sir James Campbell. Henry added Bannerman to his name in compliance with the will of a maternal uncle who left him a large inheritance. Educated at Glasgow and Cambridge universities, he worked in his father's business until being elected to Parliament representing Stirling Burghs in 1868. He held junior posts in the War Office and Admiralty in William Ewart Gladstone's first two administrations, then was Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1884-1885, and served twice as Secretary for War, 1886 and 1892-1895, where he was effective in promoting army reform. He was knighted in 1895 and became Leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons in 1899 where he opposed the Boer War. Upon the resignation of Conservative Arthur Balfour in 1905, Sir Henry became Prime Minister and led the Liberal Party to a landslide victory in the 1906 election. A strenuous leader who constructed a brilliant cabinet, which included David Lloyd George and the young Winston Churchill, much of his proposed legislation was blocked in the House of Lords. Ill health forced his resignation in April 1908 and he died shortly thereafter.

9 September 1513
The Battle of Flodden, a devastating defeat for Scotland, fought in northern England between the invading army of King James IV and English defenders under the Earl of Surrey. Despite a treaty of friendship and the fact that his wife was the sister of the English King Henry VIII, James renewed the 'Auld Alliance' in support of France when yet another Anglo-French war broke out. The Scots assembled one of the largest and best equipped armies they had hitherto put in the field, numbering at least 20,000 men, and invaded England where they used their artillery to reduce strongholds such as Norham and Ford castles. The Scottish army then positioned itself on high ground west of the River Till near Branxton on Flodden Hill as the English army under the Earl of Surrey approached. The latter force was numerically inferior but better led and was able to outflank the Scots while subjecting them to more accurate artillery fire that the Scots were unable to return. James abandoned his position for a full-scale attack, which became bogged down in the mud and subject to superior infantry fighting tactics where the shorter English bill prevailed over the longer Scottish pike. James IV and the flower of Scottish manhood, numbering somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 (the English figure) and including at least ten earls, were slaughtered. Fortunately for Scotland, English losses were severe as well, perhaps 2,000 men, and they were unable to exploit their victory.

11 September 1297
The Battle of the Stirling Bridge, a great Scottish victory against English invaders, fought near the Abbey Craig on the River Forth. Following the defeats at Berwick and Dunbar in 1296, which resulted in the deposition of King John Balliol and the imposition of English rule by King Edward  I (Longshanks), rebellion broke out across Scotland. Enthusiastic volunteers, led in the northeast by Andrew Murray (de Moray) and the southwest by William Wallace, achieved numerous successes.   The combined armies, probably numbering just a few thousand men, gathered on the far side of the Forth. An English Army of about 300 horse and 10,000 infantry, commanded jointly by the Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham, Edward's Governor and Treasurer of Scotland respectively, approached and crossed the wooden Stirling Bridge. The Scots waited until about half were across then fell upon these and slaughtered them. Cressingham was among the dead while Surrey fled back to England. Scottish losses were few though Murray was fatally wounded. Wallace, who would become a legendary patriot of Scottish nationhood,  went on to recapture Berwick and raid into English Northumberland. Shortly thereafter, he was knighted and made Guardian of Scotland. He would soon face a reckoning with the enraged Edward Longshanks, who had returned from fighting in France, at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298.

11 September 1997
On the seven hundredth anniversary of the victory of William Wallace over the English at Stirling Bridge, Scots voting in a national referendum approved the devolution of power from London and the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament defunct since 1707. The restored body would have 129 elected seats and meet by the year 2000 with powers in regard to local government, health, welfare, education, and taxation but with the British Parliament at Westminster retaining power in foreign affairs, defense and monetary policy. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) viewed this event as a crucial step on the way to independence while both the Labour and Liberal parties believed that self-government for Scotland would be an added inducement to maintain the union with England and Wales. The Conservative Party, the most vehement opponent of devolution, was a non-factor, having lost all its seats in the British elections of May 1997 which put Scottish born Tony Blair's Labour party in power and made the referendum possible. 

14 September 1742
Birth of American Patriot leader, James Wilson, in Fifeshire. He attended St. Andrew's University but emigrated to Philadelphia in 1765 where he studied law, later setting up practice in Reading. He wrote a pamphlet in 1774 in which he charged the British government with corruption, was elected a representative from Pennsylvania to the Second Continental Congress in 1775, and was a signer for said state of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. In Congress, he promoted a sound national fiscal policy that was in contrast to his personal finances which involved reckless speculation. He was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where advocated the direct election of both Congress and the President as well as the establishment of the Electoral College. He was influential in securing the ratification of the Constitution in Pennsylvania and served as an Associate Justice on the first Supreme Court. In failing health, he fled imprisonment for debt in 1797 and died at Edenton, North Carolina on 21 August 1798.

16 September Every Year
Feast Day of St. Ninian, early fifth century apostle to the southern Picts and first named Christian in Scottish history (mentioned in the Venerable Bede's celebrated eight century ecclesiastical history). Born a Briton about 360 AD and a Roman trained bishop, he founded a church apparently dedicated to St. Martin of Tours at Whithorn in Galloway. This became an influential mission station in the spread of Christianity in southern and eastern Scotland. Though predating the sixth century Irish church influence of St. Columba at the sacred isle of Iona, Whithorn became a center for Irish monks and was in continually inhabited until Viking times. The association of St. Ninian's name throughout Scotland is believed to reflect a widespread cult rather than his personal exploration and mission work at these varied sites.

20 September 1842
Birth of chemist and physicist Sir James Dewar at Kincardine on Forth in Fifeshire. Both a student and lecturer at Edinburgh University, he moved to England where he was a professor at both Cambridge and the Royal Institute. He was a remarkable 'experimentalist,' working with spectroscopy, organic chemistry, electricity, and the measurement of high temperatures. He had notable achievements in the field of cryogenics, performing the liquification of gases such as oxygen and hydrogen at low temperatures and inventing the thermos flask, known as the 'Dewar flask which he oddly neglected to patent. Working with Frederick Abel, they discovered and patented Cordite, a smokeless gunpowder which did much to advance military science. He also collaborated with John Ambrose Fleming, who later invented the vacuum tube. A difficult colleague, indifferent teacher, and brilliant public speaker, Sir James Dewar was knighted in 1904 and died, still experimenting, at age 80 on 27 March 1923.

23 September 1880
Birth of nutritionist and Nobel laureate John Boyd Orr at Kilmaurs near Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. Educated at Glasgow University and appalled by conditions in the Glasgow slums, he pioneered the study of human nutrition with correlations between health, diet, and poverty. He served Britain as a frontline doctor in the First World War where he developed a disease reducing diet for soldiers. In peacetime, he established the Rowett Institute at Buckshorn, near Aberdeen, to study nutrition, published numerous influential studies, and was knighted in 1935. During the Second World War, he was an advisor to the British Ministry of Food where he worked to prevent shortages in both the military and civilian sectors and argued for the removal of food from normal political and trade considerations. After the war, he served as the first Director-General, 1945-1948, of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as well as brief terms in the British House of Commons and as both rector and chancellor of Glasgow University. In 1948, he accepted a peerage as First Lord Brechin and later became only the second Scot to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to ensure peace by applying science to the removal of hunger and poverty. He died near Edzell in Brechin, Angus, on 25 June 1971.

25 September 1643
The English Parliament and Westminster Assembly ratify the Solemn League and Covenant, guaranteeing the integrity of the Presbyterian Kirk (Church) in Scotland.  This was an inducement for the Scottish army to intervene in the English Civil War in support of Parliament against King Charles I by making it seem possible that the Presbyterian Church would be established in England as the national church.  On 2 July 1644, at the Battle of Marston Moor, the Scottish contingent under Alexander Leslie made a significant contribution to the decisive victory of the parliamentary army commanded by Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax.  The Scottish cavalry and infantry, led by David Leslie and William Baillie respectively, were especially effective in what was otherwise an ill-managed battle. Afterwards, the Scots believed that the English refused to give them due credit so they withdrew to Newcastle in the north to await further events

29 September 1864
The birth of engineer, civil servant, and poet, Charles Murray, at Alford in Aberdeenshire. He studied civil engineering and apprenticed in Aberdeen, beginning 1881, then served as a civil engineer and partner at a gold mining company in South Africa from 1888. He later served as a gold mine manager, Deputy Inspector of Mines for Transvaal, and various public works offices in Pretoria.  He saw military service in both the Boer War and the First World War. He achieved fame as a poet, primarily writing about homesickness for his native land in the Scots dialect. In 1893, he privately printed twelve copies of his first collection of poems, A Handful of Heather, but soon decided these were embarrassing and destroyed the books and all but thirteen of the forty poems the collection included. Despite this disappointment, he continued to write poetry and his next volume, Hamewith, included the thirteen poems he salvaged from A Handful of Heather in addition to twenty one new ones. The setting for all his poems was his childhood home of Alford with simple Scottish farmers who speak in broad Scots. He later admitted that he wrote in Scots to please his father and, although he wrote about the rural culture of his childhood, he was no sentimentalist. His work was generally praised for its lively tone and skillful use of language. Later works include A Sough o'War (1917), In the Country Places (1920), and Hamewith and Other Poems: Collected Editions (1927). In addition to writing poetry, he was also known for translating the works of Horace into Scots. He married Edith Rogers in 1895 and they had three children. He returned to Scotland in 1922 and died 12 April 1941 in Banchory, Kincardineshire. His ashes were buried in the Alford churchyard. His honors include an L.L.D. from Aberdeen University, the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and the naming of a park in his honor in his native Alford. 

30 September 1906
Birth of educator and author John Innes Mackintosh Stewart at Edinburgh. He had a distinguished teaching career that took him successively to the universities of Leeds in Yorkshire, Adelaide in Australia, Queen's in Belfast, and ultimately Oxford. He became a noted writer of both fiction and literary scholarship, producing many books, articles, and short stories. He won critical acclaim for both his erudition and sophistication and was often compared to literary great Henry James. He wrote biographies of James and several other luminaries, including Joseph Conrad and Thomas Hardy, which were incorporated into Volume 12 of the Oxford History of English Literature. His collections of short stories, such as Cucumber Sandwiches, were popular though he is perhaps most famous for his mystery novels, many of which portray life and persons at Oxford, written under the name Michael Innes. He also wrote the autobiographical Myself and Michael Innes. He died on 12 November 1994 in Surrey, England.

By William John Shepherd

Note On Sources: Some dates are based upon concise chronologies published by Ronald McDonald Douglas in his Scottish Lore And Folklore (1982) and John Wilson McCoy in the pages of The Highlander magazine in 1997. Additional dates and information have been gleaned from my varied readings in Scottish history. These sources include but are not limited to the following: Brown, P. Hume. A Short History Of Scotland (1908, 1961); Donaldson, Gordon and Morpeth, Robert. A Dictionary of Scottish History (1996); Fisher, Andrew. A Traveller's History Of Scotland (1990); Gordon, Ian Fellowes. Famous Scots. London: Shepheard-Walwyn Publishers, 1988; Granger, John D. Cromwell Against The Scots: The Last Anglo-Scottish War, 1650-1652 (1997); Keay, John and Julia (eds.). Collins Encyclopedia Of Scotland (1994); Mackie, J.D. A History Of Scotland (1964, 1991); MacLean, Sir Fitzroy. A Concise History Of Scotland (1970, 1988); Prebble, John. The Lion In The North  (1971, 1973); Sadler, John. Scottish Battles (1998); Smout, T.C. A History Of The Scottish People, 1560-1830  (1969, 1998); Traquair, Peter. Freedom's Sword: Scotland's Wars Of Independence (1998); Warner, Philip. Famous Scottish Battles (1975, 1996).


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