YEARS passed on, king following king, and still the
land was filled with fighting and strife. But out of the confusion and war
of these Stormy times Scotland grew.
was war with the Saxons; there was war with the fierce sea kings who came
sailing over from Norway and Denmark. Wild heathen men were these, tall and
strong, with long fair hair and blue eyes. Fearless, and brave, and cruel,
they landed in the islands to the north of Scotland, burning, destroying,
conquering, and carrying oil both men and women as slaves.
Fiercely the kings of Scotland struggled and fought
against these wild invaders. Again and again they were driven out. Again and
again they returned. They swept round the island; they wrecked the monastery
of St. Columba on the island of Iona. Everywhere they carried fire and
sword, leaving death and desolation behind them.
In the reign of a king named Kenneth III., these Danes
were defeated in a battle called the battle of Luncarty. The fight had been
sharp and cruel, and the Danes fought with such desperate bravery that at
last they drove the Scots backward. In confusion they fled from the field.
Down a long lane fenced on either side with high walls they fled, hotly
pursued by the victorious Danes.
But in one
of the fields near, a ploughman and his two sons were quietly at work. When
the old man saw how the Scots were fleeing, he seized the yoke from the neck
of his oxen, and calling to his sons to do the same he sprang into the lane.
Side by side the three men stood barring the way. They were armed only with
their wooden ox-yokes, and with them they beat back all those who fled.
'Would ye flee and become the slaves of heathen kings?' cried the old man,
whose name was Hay. 'Nay, nay, turn back, turn back, and die rather as free
So stoutly did he speak, such blows did he deal,
that the Scots took heart again. They turned, and led by Flay, they once
more attacked the on-corning Danes. And the Danes, thinking that a fresh
army had come to help the Scots, were seized with fear and fled. Then the
Scots, who had been so nearly defeated, now filled with new hope and
courage, chased them from the field. Many were killed in the battle, many
more fell in the chase, and the victory of the Scots was great. But all the
honour was given to the ploughman and his two sons, who had won the day
after it seemed lost.
The King then commanded that these
three brave men should be dressed in splendid robes, and brought before him.
But they did not care for fine clothes, so they refused the robes of silk
and satin which were offered to them, and they went before the King wearing
their old shabby clothes, covered with dust and mud, in which they had
All the people were eager to see the men who, by
such bravery, had saved their King and country from the terrible Danes. So
they crowded along the road to see them pass, and with cheering and shouting
a great throng of people accompanied them, doing them as much honour as if
they had been kings and princes.
Thus, followed and
surrounded by a rejoicing crowd, they came to the King's palace. All the
courtiers wore their most splendid robes. The King sat upon his throne, his
golden crown upon his head. Before him stood Hay and his sons in their old
shabby clothes, carrying their wooden ox-yokes upon their shoulders.
'What can I do for you? 'What can I give to you,' asked the King, 'as a
reward for your great services?'
'Give me, sire,' replied
Hay, 'as much land as a falcon will fly over without alighting.'
'That is but modest asking,' said the King. 'Let it be done.'
Then the King and all his courtiers went out into the fields near the
palace, and watched as a falcon was let loose. As soon as the bird was free
it rose high in the air, then spreading its wings it flew away and away.
On and on it flew, on and on till, to those who watched, it seemed but a
speck in the distance. Then it disappeared. The horsemen, who followed its
flight, rode fast and they too were lost to sight. On and on the falcon
flew, till at last it alighted upon a stone.
It had flown
six miles without stopping, and all that six miles of land was given to Hay
and his sons to be theirs for ever.
The King then made Hay
and his sons knights. As you know, knights always had something painted upon
their shields in memory of the great deeds which they had done. So King
Kenneth commanded that Hay should have a shield of silver, and that upon it
three red shields should be painted. That was to show that the ox-yokes of
Flay and his sons had been as shields to the King and country. On either
side was painted a ploughman carrying an ox-yoke, and over all was a falcon.
I must tell you that some people say that this story too is a fairy tale,
but there is still a great family whose name is Hay, and who bear these same
arms with the motto, Serva jugam, which is Latin and means 'Keep the yoke.'