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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter IV - The Regent Lennox—Capture of Dunbarton Castle

MATTHEW, Earl of Lennox, the hereditary Bailie of the Glasgow archbishopric, appears on the historic page as one of the least heroic characters among the venal Scottish nobility of his time. At the Battle of the Butts in 1544 he left his charge at Glasgow to be defended against the Earl of Arran by his ally Glencairn, and, following the defeat, fled to England, where he received a bride at the hands of Henry VIII., in the person of that monarch's niece, Lady Margaret Douglas. Immediately afterwards he led the English squadron of ten ships in its attack on the shores of Clyde, where he plundered Arran, Ayrshire, and Kintyre, and captured Bute, but was refused possession of his own fortress of Dunbarton by his own vassal, Stirling of Glorat. [Tytler, vol. iii. ch. i.] For twenty years after that he had remained an exile in England. Recalled by Queen Mary, he had seen his son raised to royal state, only to throw every opportunity away by his miserable folly. After Darnley's murder, and his own failure to bring the murderers to justice, he had again fled to England, and it was as Queen Elizabeth's envoy, and at the head of an English army, that he again returned to Scotland, to avenge the death of the Regent Moray upon the House of Hamilton.

One English army under the Earl of Sussex had just devastated Teviotdale and the Merse, while another under Lord Scrope had burned Nithsdale and the western border. The business of Lennox was to vent the English queen's vengeance and spleen by carrying fire and sword still farther into the country of her rival, Mary. Writing, as he went, letter after letter of abject submission to Elizabeth's minister, Cecil, and even stooping to beg the queen to pity his poverty and send him more money, [MS. Letters in State-paper Office, quoted by Tytler, v. iii. ch. x.] he had first marched upon Glasgow, where the Hamiltons were besieging the Bishop's Castle. The garrison consisted of only twenty-four raw soldiers, unprovided with the necessaries of defence, but Lennox, with his English force of twelve hundred foot and four hundred horse, arrived in time to save the place, and the Hamiltons withdrew. Lennox then proceeded to devastate the country of his old enemies in Clydesdale and Linlithgowshire, capturing Cadzow Castle, burning the palace at Hamilton, and bringing the whole house of Hamilton to the verge of ruin. [Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 277; Murdin, p. 769; Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 587.] Following these achievements Lennox was appointed Regent on receipt of letters of recommendation from the English queen. [Buchanan, ii. 589.]

As Regent, Lennox showed some energy, capturing Huntly's small garrison at Brechin, and another placed by the Hamiltons in the town of Paisley. [Ibid. p. 592.] While at Ayr, shortly afterwards, receiving the submission of the Earl of Cassillis, he was severely hurt by a fall from his horse, and it was on returning to Glasgow, to recover from the injury and an attack of gout, that he had the means of accomplishing his most cherished purpose placed in his hands. [Ibid. p. 593.]

Dunbarton Castle, the chief stronghold in the west country, was still held by Lord Fleming for Queen Mary, and by reason of its access to the sea was specially valuable for the receiving of succours from abroad. Already in August, 1569, the towns of Glasgow, Ayr, and Irvine had been taxed to provide a pinnace with forty hagbutters, to be stationed in the firth opposite the castle, to prevent supplies reaching the garrison by sea; and Glasgow, Renfrew, and other places had been prohibited from sending fishing boats up and down the river or allowing them to go near the castle ; while, later in the same year, the provosts and bailies of Glasgow, Ayr, and Irvine had been ordered to pay to the Earl of Glencairn two successive taxations of nine shillings and three shillings on every pound land of old extent, for the support of hagbutters to assist at the siege of the stronghold. [Privy Council Register, ii. pp. 12, 21, 22, 65, 66.] But what these various efforts had failed to accomplish was brought about by a very simple circumstance. The wife of a soldier of the garrison, who was accustomed to visit him, was accused of theft, and was whipped by order of Lord Fleming. The man, who was fond of his wife, and deeply resented the treatment she had been subjected to, deserted from the castle, intent on revenge. Approaching Robert Douglas, a relation of the Regent, he offered, if put in command of a small party, to effect the capture of the place. By Douglas he was passed to Cunningham of Drumquhassel, and by Drumquhassel to the Regent. By Lennox the enterprise was entrusted to his stout henchman, Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill. [Buchanan, ii. 593.]

This intrepid soldier of fortune was the sixth son of Lawrence Crawford of Kilbirnie. He had been wounded and made prisoner at Pinkie, had followed Queen Mary to France, where he served in the Scots Guards. He had returned with Mary to Scotland, and on her marriage to Darnley had become one of that young lord's gentlemen. When the clergy took to parting with their lands he bought the estate of Jordanhill, a few miles west of Glasgow, which his father had given to the church twenty years before. He built the first mansion on that estate, and is remembered to this day as "of Jordanhill." We have seen the part he played at Queen Mary's visit to her sick husband at Glasgow. From the time of Darnley's murder he became one of Mary's most active opponents. He was made captain of a body of men under the Regent Moray, probably fought against the queen at the Battle of Langside, and, by his deposition at her trial at York, contributed vitally to her twenty years' imprisonment and final execution. Finally, on Moray's return from his arraignment of Queen Mary before Elizabeth at Westminster, and his betrayal of the Duke of Norfolk to the English queen, and when yet another victim was necessary to restore him to favour with that sovereign, it was Crawford who appeared before the Privy Council at Stirling, and, in the name of the Earl of Lennox, denounced Maitland of Lethington as one of Darnley's murderers. [Diurnal of Occurrents, pp. 147-8 ; MS. Letter, State-paper Office, quoted by Tytler, vol. iii. ch. ix,]

For the capture of Dunbarton Castle Crawford laid his plans well. A truce with the garrison expired at midnight on 30th March. On the evening of that day Crawford sent Cunningham forward with some horsemen to cut the approaches and prevent any news of the attempt reaching the garrison, while he himself followed with the foot soldiers. Sometime after midnight he was met at the foot of Dunbuck Hill, a mile from Dunbarton, by Cunningham, with the scaling ladders, and the news that all was quiet. Only now were the soldiers informed of their enterprise. Crawford showed them the guide, who had promised to ascend the rock first, and assured him and the others of high military honours in the event of their success. Having rested a little, they moved forward, and reached the foot of the rock a little before daybreak.

So negligent and secure had the garrison become that numbers of them were in the habit of spending the night in the neighbouring town of Dunbarton "in wanton revellings," and the watch on the walls must have been careless enough. At

first the sky was clear, with stars, but a mist came down at the moment of attack, and hid the summit of the crag. The assailants were hindered, first by a broken bridge, and then by a sudden flame which they took for a signal that they were discovered, but which turned out to be merely a marsh will-o'-the-wisp. Next, when they set the ladders up, one of them with the men on it, fell. Then, higher on the rock, one of the men on a ladder was seized with a fit. He was tied to the spars, the ladder was turned round, and the others ascended over his body. It was not till they topped the wall that the scaling party was discovered. As three of the guard gave the alarm, and rushed to the attack, Alexander Ramsay, followed by two others, leapt into the fortress. The old wall crashed down after them, filling up the inequalities of the rock, and, as the whole party poured in, with the shouts of "A Darnley! A Darnley!" the astonished garrison fled in all directions. Lord Fleming escaped by sliding down a precipitous rock and making off in a small boat; but his wife was seized, as well as John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, and others.

Lennox, arriving before noon, consoled Lady Fleming by restoring her plate, wardrobe, furniture, and one of her husband's estates; but the Archbishop he hurried off to execution, and he was hanged in his episcopal robes on the 6th of the month at Stirling. [A circumstantial account of the whole enterprise is furnished by Buchanan in vol. ii. pp. 593-9.] For his services Crawford received the lands of Bishop's Meadow, Blackstone Barns, and Mills of Partick, with a pension of £200 Scots. [Great Seal Register, iii. 578, No. 2199.] He also, shortly afterwards, bought for a town house the manse of the Parson of Glasgow [Gibson's Hist. of Glasgow, p. 59; see also infra, p. 40.] in Limmerfield or Drygate Lane east of the Bishop's Castle. [Old Ludgings of Glasgow, p. 32.] There with his wife he lived a good deal; but his warlike exploits were not yet over. In 1573, when the capture of Edinburgh Castle was resolutely determined upon, Captain Crawford was one of the two commanders in the attack, and, after the storming of the Spur, it was they who were secretly admitted to receive the surrender of the fortress. Crawford became provost of Glasgow in 1577, as a substitute for a later Earl of Lennox. It was he who is said to have saved the cathedral in that year when the rabble wished to destroy it, by saying he was quite in favour of "dinging down the Hie Kirk, but not till they had built a new Kirk in its place." [See, however, infra, p. 158.] He also built the bridge over the Kelvin at Partick, which stood till 1895, bearing his arms and a shrewd motto. And he represented Glasgow at the Convention of Estates in 1578. In the end the old soldier of fortune, long a substantial citizen, died in his bed in 1603.

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