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History of the Burgh of Dumfries
Chapter XI


THIS visitation would have finished Baliol, had not the English monarch set him up anew. Next March, he was again at the head of an English army, invading Scotland, and laying siege to the Castle of Berwick. While thus engaged, Sir Archibald Douglas, with three thousand men, made a diversion on the south side of the Border, and returned laden with booty, after ravaging the whole district to the extent of thirty miles. With the view of paying him back in kind, Sir Anthony de Lacey, of Cockermouth, led a considerable force into Dumfriesshire. They plundered the country far and wide, till the stout Castle of Lochmaben, that had often before done good service, stopped their desolating march. Pity that its keeper, the gallant “Flower of Chivalry,” Sir William Douglas, of Liddisdale, did not remain under its shelter, instead of sallying forth with chivalrous generosity, as he did, and giving the invaders battle in the open plain. He was taken prisoner in the engagement that ensued, together with a hundred men of rank; and upwards of a hundred and sixty of his soldiers were left dead on the disastrous field. [Redpath, p. 302.] Among the slain were Sir Humphrey de Bois, of Dryfesdale (supposed by Dalrymple to be the ancestor of Hector Boece the historian), Sir Humphrey Jardine, and Sir William Carlyle, of Torthorwald. Lacey, satisfied with his success, proceeded with his captives and spoil to Carlisle [Walsingham, p. 132.] – the city where the goods stolen from Dumfriesshire in those days were generally resetted. The prisoned “Flower,” loaded with fetters, pined in Carlisle Castle more than two years, but, unweakened by confinement, proved to be of the genuine thistle kind in many a subsequent encounter with the English.

The patriot cause suffered another serious blow when the Regent, Sir Andrew Murray, was made prisoner, in abortive attempt to surprise the Castle of Roxburgh; and it was almost entirely crushed when Sir Archibald Douglas, his successor in the Regency, after a wasting raid into England, recrossed the Tweed, for the purpose of relieving Berwick, attacked an intervening army, strongly posted on Halidon Hill, and was thoroughly defeated, with great slaughter – Douglas himself being mortally wounded, and the Earls of Lennox, Ross, Sutherland, Carrick, Monteith, and Athol being numbered among the slain. Baliol’s first failure was in these ways redeemed – his disgraceful escapade at Annan was revenged – and his aspirations once more mounted to the zenith. [Wyntoun, vol. ii., p. 170.]

At the head of an immense force – twenty-six thousand men in number, it is said – he overran the greater part of Scotland, meeting with little opposition, and subjecting the whole of it, excepting the spots on which stood the Castle of Urquhart, Loch-Doon, Lochleven, Kildrummie, and Dumbarton. Even when this was accomplished, he remained but a nominal king. The Scots paid him an unwilling homage: remembering Bannockburn, they never supposed for a moment but that his puppet’s part would soon be played out. The English, conscious of his indebtedness to them, became voracious in their demands. They had made him a king, and he must show his gratitude for their services, or he might find himself a crownless fugitive some day soon. He gave Lord Henry Percy Annandale and Moffatdale; and, to enable him to keep them with the strong hand, if need be, he added the Castle of Lochmaben to the grant. [Redpath, p. 310.] In this way Randolph’s lands were disposed of; and the estates belonging to other Brucian nobles were handed over to other English lords, or those recreant patricians who were base enough to accept a reward for assisting to destroy their nation, and to feast on the honey which the lion’s carcase yielded. “More! we must have more!” was the language of the exorbitant Southrons and their King. Baliol was placed in the position of a necromancer, who, after doing many marvelous feats, and acquiring much wealth, is required, by unceasing sacrifices, to propitiate the remorseless demon to whom he is indebted for his success.

It was not enough that Baliol had become the sworn vassal of Edward III., and had curtailed his own revenue by enriching that monarch’s subjects; he must, over and above that deep humiliation, and these liberal largesses, give over in fee to his liege lord a goodly portion of Scottish land for annexation to England, and henceforth to be completely Anglicized. However mean-spirited Baliol was, he must have been disgusted by these exactive demands. Though loath to comply with them, he durst not hazard a refusal. In a Parliament held at Newcastle on the 12th of June, 1334, he, by a solemn legal instrument, invested his royal master with the ownership of the castle, town, and county of Berwick; of the castle, town, and county of Roxburgh; of the forts, towns, and forests of Jedburgh, Selkirk, and Ettrick; of the city, castle, and county of Edinburgh; of the constabularies of Haddington and Linlithgow; of the town and county of Peebles; and lastly, of the town, Castle, and County of Dumfries. [Redpath, p. 310.] This most abject and disgraceful partition of the ancient kingdom of Scotland could not actually be carried out. The “departed spirits of the mighty dead” vetoed the arrangement: Wallace and Bruce, though mouldering in the dust, lived in the hearts of their countrymen, and dictated the nation’s protest against the base perfidy of Baliol and the insatiable cupidity of the English King.

Edward III. supposed he had succeeded where an abler man (Edward I.) had failed. Having been invested in his new possessions, he made arrangements for their government – appointing sheriffs for each district, with Robert de Laudre as Chief Justice, and assigning to John de Bourdon the important office of General Chamberlain. One Peter Tilliol, of whom we know little, was made Sheriff of Dumfriesshire, and Keeper of the Castle of Dumfries. [Fœdera, p. 615; also, Rutuli Scatiæ, vol. i., p. 271. in which the following entry occurs: - “Petrius Tilliol, de officio vice comitatus de Dumfries, et custodia castri R. ibidem.”] To Edward de Bohun were given Moffatdale, Annandale, and the Castle of Lochmaden – Percy, their previous English possessor, receiving for them an equivalent; and they continued to be held by one or other of the Bohun family till the expulsion of the Southrons from the district. Scarcely had these police arrangements been effected, when Sir Andrew Murray, escaping from prison, unfurled the patriotic flag with such effect that Baliol took flight from the country he had betrayed; and Edward III., dreading that his own tenure of it might be snapped asunder, passed with an army through Dumfries towards Glasgow, at the close of 1334 – returning, however, in a hurry, as, though he encountered no military force, hunger, and the rigour of the season, drove him back over the Border. Next year he repeated the invasion, carrying desolation into the country as far as Morayshire, and being forced to retire a second time by the famine he had himself created. For fully three years longer the war continued, the Scots adopting the policy, recommended by Bruce, of avoiding pitched battles, and depending chiefly on guerrilla attacks, by which they risked little and severely harassed the enemy.

In the summer of 1338, Sir Andrew Murray died. He had for some time shared the Regency with Robert Stewart, who, on his death, became sole Regent. Murray had done much to keep, alive the flame of Scottish patriotism; and when the management of affairs devolved entirely upon Stewart, they did not suffer at his hands. The Castles of Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, and many smaller fortresses, were, one after another, wrested by him from the invaders; and the national cause looked so promisingly that, in May, 1341, the young King, David, now eighteen years of age, ventured to return from France, where he had lived an exile nine long years. On landing at Inverbervie, in Kincardineshire, with his Queen, he was received with enthusiasm by the people, glad once more to have a sovereign amongst them, and that sovereign the son of the Bruce under whom they had fought and conquered. The son, however, proved unworthy of the sire: his reign was discreditable to himself and disadvantageous to Scotland – the country being often humiliated, and suffering great depression, during its course.

Shortly after the King’s arrival, abortive efforts were made by Randolph, Earl of Moray, to rid Dumfriesshire of the English. On laying siege to Lochmaben Castle, he was repulsed, with serious loss, by Selby the governor. [Redpath, p. 355.] A truce ensued between the Scots and English, to last till Michaelmas, 1346, during which Nithsdale and the greater portion of Annandale remained in the possession of the enemy. When the war resumed, King David proceeded, at the head of a large army, on an ill-starred expedition into Northumberland, gaining for it on the way a delusive gleam of success by capturing the powerful fortress which had five years before resisted the arms of Randolph. Its defender, Selby, was beheaded: a doom richly merited by him, as, during his governorship, he had been the terror of the dale. But the recovery of Lochmaben Castle, however important in itself, weighed but as a feather in the scale against the thorough defeat which awaited the Scots at Neville’s Cross, near Durham. Their main centre was commanded by David himself; near him fought Thomas Carlyle of Torthorwad, who fell slain when gallantly defending the person of the King. The victory of the English was immensely enhanced by the capture of the Scottish monarch; and when, nine years afterwards, he acquired his liberty, it was on condition that he should pay the heavy ransom of a hundred thousand merks. The King, on being restored to his throne, showed that he cherished a grateful recollection of Carlyle’s services: a charter signed by him, bearing date 18th October, 1362, conveyed the lands of “Coulyn and Rowcan to our beloved cousin, Susannah Carlyle heir of Thomas de Torthorwald, who was killed defending our person at the battle of Durham, and to Robert Corrie, her spouse, belonging formerly to our cousin, William de Carlyle.” [Barjarg Manuscripts.]

Edward Baliol, who held a leading command on the side of the victors at Neville’s Cross, co-operated with them in overrunning Tweeddale, the Merse, Ettrick, Annandale, and Galloway. [Wyntoun, vol. ii., p. 265.] Next year, at the head of twenty thousand men, he entered Dumfriesshire by the Western Border, and, taking up his abode in Carlaverock Castle, wasted Nithsdale and Carrick; while Admaro de Atheles assumed the governorship of Dumfries, and strengthened his position by occupying the neighbouring stronghold of Dalswinton. [It appears from an entry in the Rotuli Scotiæ, p. 173, that Atheles at this time put the Castle of Dalswinton, which had suffered much during the war, in good repair.] Baliol proceeded on his destructive mission as far as Perth, where he was stopped by a messenger, announcing that the King of France had, on his own behalf and that of his Scottish allies, ratified an eight years’ truce with England; and before the armistice expired, Baliol, despairing of realizing the object he had aimed at, resigned his pretensions, for a money consideration, into the hands of Edward III., and vanished from public life, regretted by no one, scorned or contemned by all.

With the review of making good the transfer, Edward III., in February, 1356, lead an immense army into Scotland by the Eastern Marches. The Scots, still acting upon the dying counsel of Bruce, did not attempt to meet the invaders in the open field, but wasted the country round about, confidently expecting that more havoc would be committed by hunger than by the sword in the ranks of the enemy. It was even so. The English found the farm-yards empty; and as their foraging parties roamed the country, they met with neither herds nor flocks. No food could be obtained for men or horses; and the Southern fleet, which was to have brought provisions seaward to Berwick, suffered from a storm, which prevented it reaching that port. Frantic with vexation and rage, Edward, more like a bandit chief than a royal commander, took insane revenge upon the famine, by resorting to the torch. He set fire to towns and villages, woods and towers, causing such a terrific conflagration, that the season was long after spoken of by the common people as “The Burnt Candlemas.” He then, from the blackened ruins of Haddington, beat a precipitate retreat; his forlorn host being galled and decimated on its homeward way by bands of Scots, that sprung up on every side.

Relieved from the presence of the invaders, the patriot forces assumed the offensive. They succeeded in capturing many strongholds by which the English had long kept a precarious tenure of the country. Sir Roger Kirkpatrick stormed the Castles of Carlaverock, Dalswinton, and Durisdeer. He afterwards paid a visit to Dumfries; but the friends of Edward there seem to have decamped unceremoniously before he reached the town [Hume’s House of Douglas.] – at all events, he established in it without difficulty the undisputed rule of David II., prisoner though that monarch still was, and made the rest of Nithsdale too hot for its foreign occupants; while John Stewart, eldest son of the Regent, performed a similar service towards the English in Annandale – Lochmaben Castle, however, which had once more fallen into their hands, resisting his attempts to capture it.

Edward III., mortified by the failure of his expedition, and actively engaged in hostilities with France, eagerly sought for and obtained a truce with the Scots; and the year 1357 found the latter free, ruled by their rightful sovereign, returned from his captivity, and beginning to taste the sweets of tranquility, and to experience the protection of a settled government. Lawlessness, the offspring of protracted war, had long cursed the country; but, as a proof that the sword of justice was not at this time quite rusted, even in the district where the sword of war had borne sway for ages, the following domestic episode may be narrated; [Taken chiefly from Fordun and Dalrymple.} and the illustration will perhaps be all the more acceptable, seeing that it is associated with a great historical event – the slaughter of Comyn in Dumfries.

It has already been stated that Sir Roger Kirkpatrick took the Castle of Carlaverock from the English in 1356. He was the son of the baron who, in the company of Lindsay, hurried into the Greyfriars’ Monastery and made “siccar” the fell stroke inflicted by Bruce on the treacherous Lord of Badenoch; and, curiously enough, the son of this same Lindsay was an invited guest at Carlaverock in 1357, soon after its new keeper had begun to occupy it. Superstition traces their meeting on this occasion to no accidental circumstance. Bowmaker tells us, in his “Chronicle,” that whilst the body of Comyn was being watched at the midnight hour by the Minorites, according to the rites of the Church, the officiating friars fell into a dead sleep, with the exception of one aged father, who heard, with wander and alarm, a voice, like that of a wailing child, exclaim, “How long, O Lord, shall vengeance be deferred?” The answer, pronounced in an awful tone, made the listener’s ear to tingle, and his heart to thrill, as it sounded like a voice from heaven: “Endure with patience until the anniversary of this day shall return for the fifty-second time!” This is not history, but a priestly legend: the tragical incident, however, which ensued at Carlaverock fifty-two years after the slaughter of Comyn, is recorded by the Prior of Lochleven and other contemporary annalists, and is entitled to credence.

The two sons of Bruce’s colleagues met in the old Border fortress, as entertainer and guest, on or about the 24th of June, 1357. They were both promoters of the patriotic cause – they were seemingly on most friendly terms; but, all the time, Lindsay, envying and hating his host, cherished towards him a spirit of revenge. Kirkpatrick had wooed and married a beautiful lady, whom Lindsay had loved in vain; and the latter, after the festivities were over, and “all men bowne to bed,” rose from his couch, stole on tiptoe to the chamber where his unsuspecting victim lay in the arms of his wife, stabbed him to the heart, took horse hurriedly, and, plying whip and spur, fled precipitately over moss and moor, through the midnight gloom. He had thus glutted his vengeance on his successful rival; but, bewildered by the darkness, and probably tormented by remorse, he in vain tried to secure his own safety by speeding to a far distance from the scene of the murder. After riding all night, the blood-stained criminal was captured at break of day within three miles from the castle. His rank and position, his services to the national cause, the intercession of his powerful relatives, were insufficient to save him from the consequences of his guilt. The widowed Lady Kirkpatrick, hearing that the King was in the neighbourhood, went to him, and prayed for justice on the assassin of her husband. Forthwith the monarch formed a tribunal at Dumfries, by which Lindsay was regularly tried and condemned, as is recorded, in pithy metrical terms, by the Prior of Lochleven: -

                                    “His wife passyd till the King Davy,
                                      And prayed him of his realte,
                                      Of lawche that scho might servyd be.
                                      The King Davy then also fast
                                      Til Dumfris with his curt he past,
                                      At lawche wald.  Quhat was thare mare?
                                      This Lyndessay to deth he gart do there.”

                                                                        [Cronykil, book viii., c. 44.]

How delightful it must have been for the Dumfriesians to breathe their native air in peace and security, after the long storms of war, from which they had suffered more than the rest of their countrymen, had subsided!  Though the years between the accession of David and his restoration were full of trouble, his reign, after the latter event, was comparatively serene; and the country got time to recover, in a great degree, from the fearful ravages of war by which its trade and husbandry had been nearly ruined. If hostilities had been prolonged for another generation, Scotland would have been turned into the desert which Edward I. vowed to make it, and its people been reduced by battle and famine to a mere handful. At the middle of the fourteenth century, the whole population of the country, owing to the long operation of repressing influences, would probably not exceed eight hundred thousand; and we can see reason for thinking that the town of Dumfries could not have had more than eighteen hundred inhabitants. The likelihood is that its population was nearly double that amount in the reign of Alexander III., and during the early years of the war of independence. Thirteen blessed years of peace followed King David’s release from captivity; and in their course fair Nithsdale would once more blossom and rejoice, and its ancient capital grow and flourish – increasing alike in dimensions and prosperity.

These happy changes were certainly not due to the sovereign. It was not by his wisdom and valour that the land was brought out of its wilderness condition. So far as Dumfriesshire is concerned, he was more than suspected of having secretly agreed with the English to keep it weak and dependent, by demolishing some of its main sources of strength and freedom – the Castles of Dumfries, Dalswinton, Morton, and Durisdeer. [Fordun, i., xiv., c. 18.] Had this nefarious arrangement been carried into effect, the County would have been converted into a great hunting-field by the English Borderers, and perhaps been eventually annexed to the English kingdom. But the evils which the King’s perfidy or incapacity planned or made probable were foreclosed by the firmness and patriotism of his people – favoured as their efforts were by the inability of Edward III., on account of his war with France, to prosecute his designs against Scotland.

Robert Stewart, ex-Regent, in terms of the settlement made by his illustrious grandfather, Robert Bruce, succeeded to the throne on the death of David, in 1370. The peace between Scotland and England remained unbroken. It continued other seven years, extending the repose of the northern kingdom to a period of fully twenty years. Edward III. died in 1377, without realizing any of his ambitious dreams; and the English crown devolved on his grandson, Richard II., a boy of tender age, whose “baby-brow” was ill-fitted to wear “the golden round of sovereignty,” which proves often a diadem of thorns to full-grown men. Soon after his ascension, negotiations for a continuation of the truce were entered into; but whilst these were pending, Alexander Ramsay, with only two score of Scots, surprised and took the strong Castle of Berwick, which the English had held for many years.

The embryo treaty was therefore cast to the winds. Berwick was recaptured by Henry Percy; and William, Earl of Douglas, who had vainly tried to relieve the fortress, paid a hostile visit to Penrith, at a time when one of its great fairs was being held, plundered the husbandmen and burghers, set fire to the town itself, and returned into Dumfriesshire laden with booty. [Buchanan’s History of Scotland, book ix., ch. xliii.] These aggressive forays proved that the Scots had increased in strength and boldness during the long suspension of hostilities; and perhaps they were all the more ready to undertake them, now that their powerful enemy was in his grave, and the feeble hand of an inexperienced youth held the English scepter. His subjects, however, were quite ready to take up the cartel of defiance thrown down to them by their northern neighbours; and it seemed at one time as if the war were about to take an extensive sweep, and become once more national in its character. The valour and good fortune of the Scots prevented this calamity, by restricting hostilities to the Border district, and rendering them of brief duration. For the purpose of revenging the raid against Penrith, Lord Talbot, at the head of fifteen thousand men, crossed over the Esk: and had this formidable force succeeded in its original design, it is more than probable the victor would have been tempted to risk the hazard of a more ambitious die.

All along, during the wars with England, the ford near the influx of the Esk into the Solway was the principal avenue to and from Scotland by the Western Marches, the territory further eastward being protected by Carlisle Castle, and other places of strength planted irregularly along the Border. [The guarding of this passage was made an object of great consideration by the English Government. The duty of doing so was assigned by Richard II. to Richard Burgh; and when he resigned the office, in 1396, it was conferred on Galfrid Tilliol and Galfrid Louther. - - Rotuli Scotiœ, vol. ii., p. 152.] It was by this passage, after the tidal waters had retired, that the English army entered Scotland, and once more wakened with its war-notes the echoes of Solway shore. The invaders ravaged the lower district of Dumfriesshire, rifling farms and town at pleasure; and, mightily pleased with their work, halted at nightfall in a narrow mountain gorge or valley, for the purpose of taking rest, apportioning the spoil, and deciding on their future plans. Presumptuous and reckless, they courted the dolorous fate that awaited them. A band of five hundred Scots, made up chiefly of common serfs or varlets, suddenly and secretly assembled, fell with the force of a thunderbolt on Lord Talbot’s camp; making their descent upon it more dismally appalling by wild shouts, and the ringing of rattles used by them in scaring wild beasts from their flocks. The surprise was like that of Edward Baliol’s army at Annan fifty years before, only it was a larger scale, and had still more destructive results. The English, startled, appalled, paralyzed, were taken and slain in great numbers, as if they had been a flock of sheep doomed to the shambles. Many who were not cut down perished in the Esk, whose tide had returned, all untimely for the poor fugitives. Two hundred and forty were made prisoners, and only a remnant of the aggressive host escaped with life. [Fordun a Goodal, vol. i., p. 385; Wyntoun, vol. i., p. 309.] The exulting victors recovered the whole plunder, and carried off besides the valuable arms and stores which belonged to the invaders. It is not surprising that, as a sequel to this overwhelming discomfiture, the English were glad to sign a truce for three years, on terms favourable to the Scots.

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