THE castle of Linlithgow was in the hands of the
English, but it was won from them by the help of a poor farmer called
The castle was very strong. It was surrounded by a
loch, and a moat crossed by a drawbridge. Under the archway of the entrance
there was a portcullis.
It seemed hopeless to attempt to take the castle, it
was so strong.
One day the English Governor ordered Binning to bring
a cart-load of hay to the castle, as he was in need of some for his horses.
Binning promised to bring it, but he made up his mind to take the castle at
the same time. Quickly and quietly his plans were made. During the night
some Scottish soldiers crept as near to the castle walls as they dared, and
hid where they could not be seen by the English. Then very early in the
morning Binning loaded his cart. But he did not load it with hay only. In
the cart lay eight strong men, clad in steel, and armed with swords and
battle-axes. Over these men, so as quite to cover them, Binning placed a
light load of hay.
He then harnessed his oxen with ropes to the heavy
cart, and set out for the castle. A servant sat in front, driving, and
Binning himself walked by the side of the cart, with a stick in his hand and
his woodman's axe at his belt.
Slowly the cart creaked along the silent street until
it reached the castle gate. The drawbridge was lowered at once, for the
sentinels knew that hay was expected, and asked no questions. The heavy load
passed over the wooden bridge, the hoofs of the oxen sounding loud in the
still morning air. With beating heart, but seemingly calm, Binning walked
along. The portcullis was slowly raised and the cart passed under it. But,
just as it was directly under it, Binning sprr1g forward, and quick as
lightning, with a blow from his hatchet, cut the ropes which bound the oxen
to the cart. The oxen moved on. The cart was left beneath the portcullis.
'Call all, call all,' shouted Binning. It was the
signal agreed upon. 'Call all, call all,' cried the soldiers in the cart as
they threw off the hay which covered them, and sprang to the ground with
drawn swords. 'Call all, call all,' replied the men from without, rushing in
to help them.
The portcullis was lowered, but it was of no use. The
heavy cart stood underneath it and prevented it from falling to the ground.
The gates could not be shut for the same reason, so the castle was taken and
all the English soldiers were put to death.
Bruce rewarded Binning by giving him a great estate,
and even to this day the name of Binning is remembered in Linlithgowshire.
Roxburgh was another strong castle, and it was so near
the Borders that the English were very anxious to keep it. But Douglas had
quite made up his mind to take it, however difficult it might be.
Douglas was a great soldier and a gallant knight. By
his friends he was called the Good Lord .James, but by his enemies, because
of the fear they had of him, and because he was very dark, he was called the
Black Douglas. Indeed the terror of his name was so great that mothers would
frighten their naughty children by saying to them, ' Be good now, or I shall
fetch the Black Douglas to you.'
On Shrove Tuesday there was great feasting and
drinking, and on that day Douglas and his friends made up their minds to
take Roxburgh Castle.
The only hope of doing this was to take it by
surprise. But to get to the castle some fields had to be crossed. If the
Scots had marched across these fields, they would have been seen by the
garrison, who would then have had time to prepare for them. So, waiting
until it was dark, they threw black cloaks over their bright armour, and
crawling on their hands and knees, passed through the fields to the bottom
of the wall. They went a few at a time, so that in the dusk they looked like
Some were safely over, and were hiding close against
the walls, when the watch went their rounds. The watchmen paused on the
wall, just above the spot where were Douglas and his men, and looked across
the fields. 'There be cattle late afield,' said one soldier, pointing to the
slowly moving objects in the distance.
'Yes,' said the other, 'the farmer is making merry
this Shrovetide, and has forgotten to shut up his cattle. If the Black
Douglas comes across them before morning he will be sorry for it.'
Then the men moved on, little dreaming that the Black
Douglas was listening to what they were saying, and that the 'cattle' were
no other than the Black Douglas's own men.
At last all had safely reached the walls. The ladders
were placed; the men mounted. Everything was quiet within the castle. Only a
woman, the wife of one of the soldiers, sat upon the walls with her child in
her arms, singing it to sleep.
'Hush ye, hush ye, little pet ye,
Hush ye, hush
ye, dinna fret ye,
The Black Douglas will no get ye.'
'Don't be so sure of that,' said a voice close beside
her, and a steel-gloved hand was laid upon her shoulder. With a scream the
woman looked round. Beside her, tall, dark, and strong, stood the very Black
Douglas of whom she sang.
In a moment the alarm was given. The fierce cry of
Douglas! Douglas!' with which his men always rushed into battle, sounded
through the night, and the fight began. Nearly all the English were killed.
But Douglas took care of the woman and her child, so she lived to know that
he was not so dreadful as his name.