Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scot in British North America
Chapter II Early History

The first delusion to be encountered in surveying the early history of Scotland, is that Scotland, in its modern sense, can be traced back to Kenneth, or even to a date several centuries later. The name of the Celtic Highlanders or Irish-Scots has been the cause of great bewilderment, because that people have been confounded with the country to which they gave their name; just as the Angles were privileged to bestow theirs upon Angleland or England. Speaking of the historians, Burton says: "At one time they find the territory of some Saxon king, stretching to the Tay; at another the King of Scots reigns to the Humber or farther. It would have saved them a world of trouble and anxiety to come at once to the conclusion that Scotland was nowhere - that the separate kingdom marked off against England by a distinct boundary on the physical globe, as well as by a moral boundary of undying hatred - did not exist."* It is the persistence of the name of Scot from Fergus in 404, or Kenneth in 838, to Mary Queen of Scots, and her son the first James of England, and on to the Union in the reign of Anne, the last Stuart, that has been the cause of all the trouble and confusion. Gibbon calls it "national pride," but it appears rather to have sprung from antiquarian prejudice or stupidity. There is an obscure period lasting several centuries, upon which a veil of thick darkness hangs, and concerning it the chronicler or historian has been able to work his sweet will - an advantage England, after Egbert, cannot boast. George Buchanan has made Fergus II. the fortieth King of Scotland, and discovered a Scots' king of the same name on the throne anterior to 300 B.C., somewhere about the time that Alexander the Great was engaged in taking Babylon. During Columba's time there was a King Aidan who was anointed by the saint of Iona, and he is said to have emancipated his country from Irish supremacy, fought the Picts, the Britons of Strathclyde, and even the Saxons. He was defeated by Ethelfried near Carlisle. Donald Brae (A. D. 637), tried to conquer Ireland with a vast army made of Picts, Scots, Strathc1yde Britons and Saxons, but was signally defeated after fighting a seven days' battle, already mentioned, at what is now Moira, in the County Down. This obstinate conflict, says Burton (History, i. 328) was "the Marathon of all Ireland as it at last became as it grew in fame and importance," and the memory of it became more significant, "when, after the lapse of centuries, the Saxons returned to enslave the Celt." Usually the Picts went with the Saxons, whether from a feeling of kinship or near neighbourhood does not appear. They combined under Egbert and fought against the Scots and took what is now Dumbarton in 756. On the other hand the Scots had as their allies, their brother Celts of Strathclyde in 1018, at the battle of Car, near Wark, in Northumberland.

Kenneth, reported to be the grandson of a semi-mythical Achaius, "the ally of Charlemagne and patron of letters," is, in 843, found ruling over both Picts and Scots and the former soon disappear out of history, although we hear of the Picts of Galloway, probably Strathclyde Welsh afterwards, but there were so-called Picts at the battle of the Standard, in the English Stephen's reign (A. D. 1138). In centre Scotland, Kenneth reigned supreme, either by conquest, by marriage or inheritance, and the last two sources of power in those days were often the fruit of the first. He did not reign over Scotland in any intelligible sense, yet he became, in a wider sense than hitherto, King of the Scots by absorption, or by whatever name the coup d'etat of those days may be properly designated. He was still, however, only King of the Scots, including what was left, by Norse and Teuton, of the Pictish dominions.

The subject of the heathen religion prevalent in Scotland before the introduction of Christianity can hardly be touched here, and, sooth to say, it is not a profitable theme. It was probably some form of nature-worship, and that is about all that can be safely asserted. The so-called Druidical remains are attributed to that mysterious hierarchy which probably had no existence in fact, and may safely be left enshrined, where most moderns are acquainted with it, in Bellini's opera of Norma, or the scattered references to it in poetical literature.

Towards the end of the fourth century we come upon the famous name of St. Ninian, the apostle of Southern Scotland. "From his White House on the sea," says Prof. Veitch, "the teacher of Pict and Scot had apparently, about the beginning of the fifth century, partially reached the Pagan Cymri of Tweeddale."** Butler says that St. Ninian or St. Ringan was born in Cornwall; he certainly was of Cymric origin, and his influence, however great for the time, was swept away before St. Columba and St. Kentigern appeared in the sixth century. It is unnecessary to refer speciaIly to the renowned St. Patrick further than to write that he was indubitably a native of the same Strathclyde - the former Roman Province between the walls called Valentia. He has been claimed by Ireland and even Brittany; but there is no doubt he belonged to Kil Patrick, a district at the west end of the wall, and even his original name of Succat, or Succoth, is still borne by an estate in that district. Neither he nor any other single man produced the wonderful transformation of the Green Isle attributed to him. The shoal of able and learned missionaries who, in the next century, carried the Gospel, under St. Columba, St. Gall and a host of others, to Scotland, to Germany and other parts of the continent, owed their Christianity to something more than the isolated work of the patron saint, energetic and zealous though he unquestionably was.

The illustrious name of St. Columba and the school of Iona, that gradually spread the faith of the Gospel over the west and across by Northumbria to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, in spite of legends, shed a glorious light in a period of the thickest darkness. To Ireland that light is due; and characteristically enough the Iona church was the result of a sanguinary feud between the so-called Kings of Ireland, which drove Columba forth an exile. He was born about 520, in Donegal, and to St. Adamnan, his biographer, the sixth abbot of Iona, we owe the story of his eventful life. St. Kentigern or St. Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow, was the apostle of Strathclyde. In the arms of the city are perpetuated - by the bird, the tree or branch, and the fish with a ring in its mouth - three of his miracles. He is mythically said to have been the grandson of Loth, King of the Lothians; but, whatever his origin, he was at least known to St. Columba, though perhaps not his disciple. Besides these there were St. Palladius, rather a hazy figure, from Rome according to the story, who founded a church at Fordun, Kincardineshire; and of the Irish school, St. Ternan, whose name is still preserved in Banchory Ternan; St. Serf, with his monastery in Kinross, on an island in Mary Stuart's Lochleven, where Wyntoun wrote his chronicle; St. Donnan, St. Ronan, and a host of others to be found in the hagiologies.*** St. Finnian built the church on Lindisfarne; but before him, also of the Irish school, was the redoubtable St. Aidan, the apostle of Northumbria, and, like Columba, a soldier as well as a priest. St. Cuthbert, although intimately connected with the Irish school of Iona appears first in story as "a shepherd boy on the braes of the Leader," then in the kingdom of Northumbria, that bordered on Strathclyde and touched it at Galashiels. He was miraculously converted by an angelic vision, it is said, in 657, in which he saw St. Aidan's soul borne upward from Holy Isle to Heaven. The story of his miracles and the removal of his body must be familiar to all readers of Marmion. The account of the saint, as it is given, in the second canto, tells

"How, when the rude Dane burned their pile,
The monks fled forth from Holy Isle
O'er northern mountain, marsh and moor,
From sea to sea, from shore to shore,
Seven years St. Cuthbert's corpse they bore,
They rested them in fair Melrose," &c.,

and finally buried it in the eastern extremity of the choir of Durham Cathedral, "where," says Prof. Veitch, it "was disinterred in 1827, 1139 years after his death." With him we may leave behind us the primitive Christianity of North Britain.

The human material in those early centuries was crude, and the manifestations of its rough energy coarse and often brutal; but, in their primitive migrations and the effects of them, lay already potentially the future glory of that world-girding chain of peoples which is beginning to work its perfect work. Upon Scotland, it was natural that the shock should fall with exceptional severity from all quarters. Ireland was to the north-west, the Scandinavian peninsula and Denmark not far away; and the Orkney and Shetland Isles stretched off to the latter like a tentacle extended in an attitude of invitation. Between them and the Celts of Argyle and the Western Isles there was constant warfare, and, in some of the blank intervals, filled up from fancy by the chroniclers, it appears probable that the early Scoto-Irish civilization was under an all but irrecoverable eclipse. On the east coast, the invasions took another form in earlier times; there, though raiding might be profitable, it must soon have appeared that it could not continue to be so, and the strangers gradually disappeared. Long prior to the arrival of the Saxons in England, droves of them had settled in all parts of northern and eastern Scotland, the rougher class in the north-west, the more civilized in the counties bordered by the German Ocean. The former doubtless came from the fjords of Norway and from Jutland or the Elbe; the latter from the Baltic shores, and at that time, the people of Schleswig or Holstein were scarcely distinguishable in language or appearance from the Frisian or Pomeranian, or the former from their Danish fellows of the North. So it came to pass in the North of Scotland that there were jarls or maormors - earls as we call them - of Ross, Caithness and Orkney, and, with the Celts on the one hand, and the Saxons, so soon as they came in contact with them, they waged perpetual warfare. The battle of Nechtansmere took place in 685, near Dunnichen, and there Egfried, the Saxon of Northumbria, fell fighting with the Picts; later the Northumbrians were contending, in alliance with the Picts, against the Cymric Strathclyde, and in 756 the Britons submitted; in the west the Scots of the Dalriada fought with the Norse jarls of the extreme north; and in 793 the Danes and Norwegians descended on the Bernician coast at Lindisfarne and ravaged the country far over the border by the valleys of Tweed, Ettrick and Yarrow. Thus within, all was division; from without, constant invasion.

Saxon rule took definite form in 547, when Ida founded Bernicia, and Ella established Deira to the south - both afterwards united as Northumbria which extended from the Forth to the Humber and occasionally further to the southward and northward. Between these Saxons and the Cymric Celts of Strathclyde there was constant war until Cumbria - an elastic name, became Saxon also, and the entire Lowlands between the entrances of the Forth and Clyde were thoroughly Saxonized, with a strong admixture of the Norse. It was not until about the middle of the tenth century that the Scots' kings obtained Dunedin or Edinburgh, and altogether too late to change either the blood or language of the people in Scotland, east and south. In the north, they never possessed more than a fictitious sovereignty. On all sides then, there appears the evidence of a nation in the making, and it is perhaps the more instructive as a study, because the birth throes lasted so far down in the history, as compared with England which ended its race troubles early, and with poor Erin where they are, as Mr. Froude remarks, not yet brought to a peaceful solution. The outlook was not over-promising under Malcolm Canmore, with whom, according to Tytler, Scottish history proper commences. There was a people not homogeneous, as was once supposed, but composite. It was certainly not Celtic, nor yet unmixed with Saxon; yet evidently there was a hardy, determined and vigorous community in the process of formation. If you ask why the Scot in British North America has approved himself the frugal, pushing, keen-witted and sternly straightforward man he appears in the main, the answer is because of those barren hills with heather-clad slopes and the wildness of nature around him - its grandeur and its penuriousness together that he has been made at once thrifty and imaginative - a ploughman, a shepherd, a weaver, and yet a poet or a philosopher. And if to the influences of nature we add the fiery discipline of unceasing conflict within, and from without, what wonder if the Scot, who is the inheritor of the stout virtues bequeathed him by his fathers, should be one of the first in the peaceful crusade of British civilization all the world over?

Malcolm Canmore's reign, as already remarked, is usually taken to be the opening of a new era in Scotland; but neither nature nor man effects anything by abrupt leaps. The King of Scots was merely the ultimate link in a chain which had been drawing the Celtic dynasty to its Saxon subjects for many a long year. The monarch whom he dethroned had, perhaps, as good a title to the throne as he, and the mention of his name to most readers will excite a deeper feeling of interest than that of the husband of St. Margaret. Macbeth, or Macbeda, as Mr. Burton prefers to call him, was no mean man, apart from that lurid and sinister glow which the transcendent genius of Shakspeare has thrown about him. It is not certain that he was not a usurper to be sure; but it would be exceedingly difficult to prove that he was one. Mr. Burton shrewdly hints that the Norman chroniclers, monkish or otherwise, not finding a proper genealogy for Macbeth, as king in hereditary succession on Norman principles, boldly made him out "a fraud," when, for all that appears, he was the rightful heir, if not in himself, in right of his wife Gruach, whom we all know now as the Lady Macbeth of Shakspeare. Indeed, it is not very hard to demonstrate that "the gracious Duncan," instead of being one who

"Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office that his virtues
Will plead like angels trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking off " - (Act I , sc. 7),

as Macbeth is made to declare, would seem to have been all aggressive and troublesome ruler and a usurper to boot, according to the notions of succession prevalent in those days. From the time of Kenneth Macalpine, who conquered the Picts, the Scots were incessantly at war with the Danes, and no less that eight Scottish kings altogether are said to have fallen in fighting with them. Malcolm I., to whom, in 945, Edmund had made over Cumbria, was one of these. Kenneth III., however, defeated the Danes signally at the great battle of Luncarty (970); but was killed at the castle of Fettercairns, in a row with the Earls or Maormors of Angus and Mearns. Constantine was killed by a rival, Kenneth IV. (the Grim), who was in turn slain in fight by Malcolm II. He reigned twenty years, dying in 1033, and was a warlike king, consolidating and even enlarging his territory. In the year 1018 he invaded Northumbria, and, at Carham on the Tweed, gained a victory which made the Tweed henceforth the boundary of the Scottish kingdom. Malcolm, therefore, was the first monarch entitled to be called King of Scotia, and, with him, the male line of Kenneth Macalpine became extinct. Duncan, his grandson by the maternal side succeeded. At the time of Duncan's death, he was not the guest of Macbeda or Macbeth, Maormor of Ross and Moray, but an invader of his territory. The Lady Macbeth was Gruach, granddaughter of Kenneth IV; and if, as is alleged, Malcolm had put a grandson of Kenneth's to death, Gruach was his sister, who thus had an "inheritance of revenge; " but, apart from that, "she was, according to the Scots' authorities, the representative of the Kenneth, whom Duncan's grandfather had deprived of his throne and his life" (Burton: History, i., 369-71). Macbeth was the rightful ruler of all the country from Moray Firth and Loch Ness north; and his wife was heiress of Scotland. The latter, after Duncan's death, was ruled evidently in right of the wife, because, in grants, the royal title ran, "The King and Queen of Scots." How Duncan met his death is a matter of uncertainty. He appears to have been slain near Elgin, and he was northward with hostile intent where he had no business to be. Mr. Burton alludes to a rumour that Shakspeare had once visited Scotland, and had derived his views of the wretched state of the country in the eleventh century from the utter despair which settled upon it after Flodden. The whole of Macduff's description, in his colloquy with Malcolm (Act. iv., sc. 3), sets forth vividly the desperate plight of that sore-bested land, As in most other cases, where Shakspeare's knowledge or experience surprises one, it is better perhaps to leave the mystery unexplained and be content to call it the fruit of transcendent genius.

Duncan perished in 1039, having reigned five or six years; Macbeth was slain in battle in 1057; so that his tenure of royalty was much longer than readers of the tragedy would suppose. He was the first Scottish monarch who appears as a benefactor of the Church, and he proved, so far as appears, an enlightened ruler. With him "the mixed or alternative royal succession" terminated, and the strictly hereditary system was established. After Macbeth's death, Lulach, as Gruach the Queen's son by a first marriage, claimed the throne. It was in 1054 that Siward, Danish Earl of Northumbria, whose sister Duncan had married, conquered Cumbria and the Lothians, and gave them to Malcolm, his nephew and Duncan's son. In 1057 the war was carried further; there was a battle at Dunsinnane, as the dramatist tells us; but it was not decisive. The allies crossed the Dee and defeated and slew Macbeth at Lumphanan, in Aberdeenshire. Lulach was afterwards overcome and perished at Strathbogie. With Malcolm III., surnamed Canmore or Big Head, the veil which almost impenetrably shrouds Scottish history for four centuries is uplifted, and events are seen in clearer outline. He was a natural son, according to Wyntoun, his mother being a miller's daughter. His coronation, like that of all the old kings, took place at Scone, in 1057, nine years before the Battle of Senlac or Hastings. Edmund Ironsides had left two children, Edgar Aetheling and Margaret, and in 1068 these last survivors of the Saxon line took refuge in Scotland, and were hospitably received by Malcolm; Margaret took something more - a husband to wit, and became Malcolm's second wife. The Conquest in England was the signal for an extensive Saxon migration northwards; the exiles "found in Scotland people of their own race, and made a marked addition to the predominance of the Saxon or Teutonic element." Malcolm became the champion of the Saxon royal house and William's enemy. The Norman conquest unquestionably effected much in Scotland, but rather by subtle working than the forcible upsetting of established institutions. Yet the strong hand of feudalism was laid upon these, before the reign of William; the nobles grew more powerful, the Crown more arbitrary and exacting, whilst the people sank from villeinage into serfdom. The stubborn resistance of small landed proprietors who disdained "the sheep's skin title" to their estates, prevented the permanent establishment of the feudal system in Scotland; but it immensely increased the power of the great nobles, and paved the way for those disastrous conflicts which proved so vexatious, and often fatal, to the Jameses. Malcolm's wife, St. Margaret, was an earnest devotee, and so naturally favoured the Roman system rather than the practice of the Columbite Church or of the Culdees. Still it was the twelfth century before Rome imposed its hierarchical system on Scotland, to be overthrown by a national uprising in the sixteenth. The Culdees - a word, according to the philologist, equivalent to Cultores Dei, worshippers of God - deserve more attention than is compatible with the present purpose. They were certainly Catholics, though not of the Roman type, and much ingenious sophism has been expended upon them. They appear to have preserved something of the early simplicity of the primitive Celtic Church, but, having passed through a barbarous time and gathered, as Christianity elsewhere did, of the foulness which reeked in that channel through which it passed down the stream of time. Into the Culdee controversy it would be absurd to enter. At the time of the Reformation, the very name was a tower of strength to the evangelical party; but it is not well to claim too much for men who simply adhered to the ritual and form of Church government which had come down to them through oral tradition, for the most part, of a non-episcopal Christian Church. At the beginning the Culdees, so far as may be gleaned, were stricter in form and more democratic in spirit than the school of Iona, which was itself episcopal, or non-episcopal, as suited the times. A bishop in those days was not of much account either in the Irish or Scottish Dalriada, and St. Patrick would have thought himself degraded by the crozier which modern Irish Catholics regard as inseparable from his dignity. Moreover, great as even St. Patrick was, it speaks volumes for the Celtic race - for the pure love and reverence for womanhood, especially when sanctified by a living faith - that St. Bridget stands high above all the saints, even the redoubtable St. Patrick himself. Whatever the Culdees may have been - and it seems almost ludicrous to search for a pure Christianity in a cult handed down under such conditions - it may be taken for granted that they were early Protestants in the sense that they resisted Rome. In Scotland, the feudal fashion, for such it was, had drawn more closely together the baron and the ecclesiastic. There was no longer room for the Culdees, nor, indeed, for the old-fashioned school of Iona. The Saxon influence and the Norman pressure acting on a new and unstable regime, quenched opposition to the supremacy of the Papal See, and made the Church of Scotland a branch of the great Roman Catholic communion. It was only natural that modern Protestants should revert to the Culdees with an affectionate reverence which, on the whole, seems entirely misplaced. "That the Culdees were bad Papists, may be clear enough; but it must not be held to follow that, on that account, they were good Protestant Evangelicals." (Burton: History, Vol. ii., p. 26.) Whatever the doctrine or practice of the Culdees may have been, they had certainly degenerated so far from any reasonable theology or ordinary modus vivendi with the world around, that the introduction of the Roman or Papal system was, on the whole, a blessing. Whether Churches be prelatical or non-prelatical, they run through the human cycle with unerring regularity, and the Culdees, of whom little is known till they were in a state of decadence, fell out of the great preparatory scene in the historic drama ere long to be enacted with terrible effect in Scotland.

To return to secular affairs. Malcolm, although he had a pious wife, who, for aught we know, may have taught him his letters, was plagued with the same weird beckoning which in drama, though not in history, lured Macbeth to his doom. Having received the Saxon royal family and espoused the sister of the heir to England's throne, what was then left him but to make war upon England? Under William, however, he was saved the trouble, for the descendant of Rollo was quite as eager for the fray; in fact, the one was all impetuosity, the other, facing a disagreeable duty imposed on him by kinship, was not whole-hearted in the matter. He however, invaded Northumbria, south of the Tweed, much as the Russians occupied Roumania as a point d'appui. William invaded by sea and land, and did an immense amount of damage, devastating the country between the Humber and Tees, in the old Deira, and applying the scourge principally on English soil. War raged fiercely after William's fatal rage had wrought its own retribution, and his horse had plunged upon the hot embers of Nantes as he rode down the steep street vowing vengeance on Philip of France.+ In the Church he deposed the Saxon Stigand and enthroned Lanfranc the Norman, who speedily made the see of York subordinate to his own. William had shown his power in Northumbria, but he hardly touched Scotland. Under Rufus, Malcolm made war and made peace; marched over the northern English counties and, at last, met Rufus at Gloucester for conference; when returning, he and his son and heir were slain by the Northumbrian Earls. Then followed, in short order, Donald Bane and Malcolm's natural son Duncan; Edgar fought his way to the throne, in turn, and unconsciously made the Kingdom of Scotland what it is by ceding the country from the Lammermoor Hills west through that portion of the country between the Solway and Clyde to his younger brother David. In 1124 David became King and held the Scottish kingdom almost intact. Cumberland still remained a part of Scotland unti11153, when William the Lion relinquished it to Henry II, after he was beaten at Alnwick. In 1237, the boundaries of the kingdoms were for the first time definitively settled.

Edgar's reign of eight or nine years was chiefly remarkable for the first matrimonial union of England and Scotland in regnant families. In 1100 his sister Matilda married Henry I. and thus the heirs of the Saxon and Norman line were doubly united, and the bond was further cemented when Alexander I. married Sibylla, the daughter of Henry. David I. was, above all things, a Churchman, and he was also an hereditary enemy of the Norman line - a legacy of ill to him in the usurpation of Stephen, when Matilda, the daughter of the first Henry was set aside, there was an illegitimate uncle named Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who fled to Scotland and was received by David. The end of that enterprise was the contest at Northallerton, known as the Battle of the Standard from the vehicle with crucifix and adornments which formed the rallying point of the English host. At this battle the Scots and the malcontents from the south were terribly defeated in the year 1138. Of David's army it is somewhat difficult to form a conception, and almost beyond the art of the literary scene-painter to describe. "A wild, diversified horde such as we may suppose to have been commanded by Attila or Genseric," not only of Scots or wild Picts, but strange men from Orkney over which David had no pretence of authority. It is not a matter for surprise that this motley host, although they piled charge upon charge, were defeated; yet, as the Scottish historian observes, David "acted more like a baffled than a beaten general, and collecting such of his forces as remained, laid siege to Wark Castle. Stephen had enough work on his hands elsewhere; he therefore made peace with David in 1139 at Durham. St. David, for he has been canonized, was what is called "a pious prince," that is, he endowed the Church liberally - rather too liberally in the opinion of James I. (of Scotland), for he used an expression at David's sepulchre at Dunfermline - "as he wald mene that that king left the Kirk ower riche, and the crown ower puir." He endowed or adjusted nine bishoprics and a number of religious houses, known in after song and story, among them Holyrood, Melrose, Jedburg, Kelso, Dryburg, Newbattle and Kinloss (in Moray).

Malcolm IV. lived on amicable terms with Henry II. of England; but his brother, William the Lion, took part with Henry's undutiful sons and having fallen into that king's hands at Alnwick (1174), was taken prisoner to Northampton and then to Normandy, where at Falaise, he made a treaty acknowledging "a complete feudal superiority of the King of England over Scotland" - a concession which proved of some moment in years to come." Whatever its value, as extorted from a prisoner, apart from other considerations, it is certain that Richard I. in 1189, in the strongest language absolved the Scottish king from the agreements which his "good father Henry had, through his capture, been able to wrest from William (per captionem suam extorsit). For that act of justice the impulsive Coeur de Lion received the sum of ten thousand pounds and flung it away, with chivalrous recklessness, in the abyss of the Crusades. There was now a lull in the affairs of Scotland, although much of note was going on in Europe - the cause, doubtless, of tranquillity in North Britain. From the accession of William to the death of his Successor Alexander II., eighty-four years elapsed - a period pregnant with momentous issues to Europe and the world. Becket had been murdered at Canterbury, Ireland conquered, Jerusalem taken by Saladin, and re-taken by Richard after the battle of Ascalon; Pope Innocent III. sat on the throne, the Albigenses were slaughtered by Simon de Montford, and the Inquisition was set on foot; John had signed the Magna Charta, and behaved generally, like the crafty poltroon that he was; and St. Louis, the tender, ascetic, yet almost pitiful impersonation of medieval piety, had just embarked upon his Crusade, when Alexander III. mounted the Scottish throne in 1249.

In accordance with the treaty of Newcastle made with Henry III., King Alexander II. was married to the Princess Margaret of England at York. He did homage for territories south of the Border; but when the wily Henry proposed to the boy - for such he was - that he should also perform the same feudal obligation for the kingdom of Scotland, the answer was, that that was too important a matter for a festive occasion, and must be deferred. It was deferred accordingly until the next reign, when the great Edward accomplished the work of conquest, and, in the end, got nought but worry and anxiety for his victories and temporary success. In 1262, Haco or Hakon, king of Norway; made his way, on the usual track, round the northwest coast of Scotland by the Hebrides, Outer and Inner, and so south, until be rounded Cantire and by Bute and Arran reached the pleasant coast of Ayrshire, where he landed a force. Mr. Carlyle says that he had been engaged during this cruise in "adjusting and rectifying among his Hebrides as he went along, and landing withal on the Scotch coast to plunder and punish as he thought fit."++ At Largs, now a town - or rather south of it - there are still "stone-cairns and monumental heaps" "mutely testifying to a battle there, altogether clearly to this battle of King Hakon; who, by the Norse records, too, was in these neighbourhoods about that same date, and evidently in an aggressive, high kind of humour"+++ Whether Haco's failures were due chiefly to the winds or to the superior prowess of the Scots, Norman invasion henceforward ceases to be a factor in Scottish history. Magnus IV. of Norway ceded all the Western Isles, and the only Norse possessions thereafter were Orkney and Shetland; yet the Norse element remained in North-western Scotland and the Isles, and impregnated strongly the Celtic region in the South-west which had been the original realm of the Scots. This district, says Burton, along with a large strip on the east coast of Ireland, having Dublin as its capital, and the Isle of Man, constituted a Sort of naval empire of the Northmen. *+

In 1281, Eric of Norway married Margaret of Scotland, and with their daughter, "the Maid of Norway," who died at Orkney on her way to take possession of the Crown, the direct line failed, and then new and terrible woes to that sorely harassed country began. **+ Alexander III, fell over the crags at Kinghorn, and the condition of Scotland, from the death of "The Maid," in 1286, until the battle of Bannockburn (1314), was deplorable in the extreme. An old verse, chiefly interesting for its age, and as expressing the despair which soon settled on the people, may be inserted here; -

" When Alysandyr our Kynge was dede,
That Scotland led in luve and le,
Away was sons of ale and brede,
Of wyne and wax, of gamyn and gle,
Our gold was changyd into lede,
Cryst born into virgynyte,
Succour Scotland and remede,
That stad is in perplexyte."

"This," says Prof. Murray, "which is probably the earliest extant specimen of Scottish verse, is of peculiar interest, as revealing the bitterness with which the people remembered the good old times of plenty preceding the War of Independence, and enabling us to understand the intensity of national feeling which called the war forth, and which found utterance in the popular songs of the period."***+ The "perplexyte," of which the unknown rhymer tells must have been appalling, because apparently without hope. The kingdom, although marked out by natural boundaries, was far from homogeneous. There were lords and lairds, petty monarchs, earls and potentates of all sorts, from the Norse ruler in Caithness to the robber-kings of Liddesdale, and the other valleys of the Border-Tushielaw, Mangertoun, and the like. To the south, were the English Border earls, and behind them that dreaded Norman tyranny of which Scotland had already experienced her share. Everything seemed hopeless; within were poverty and despair, no middle class, a few miserable towns, wretched agriculture, and security for person or property nowhere. The reivers of the Highlands were on one side, and the free-booters of the Border on the other, and between them, as in a press, poor Scotland was squeezed until all the healthy vitality was well-nigh crushed out of her. There was no central focus of power, whatever the kings may have claimed, during this early period; and when the royal line became extinct all hope of nationality, of prosperity and peace, must have vanished. This was the primary school of discipline, hard, stern and rugged, through which the Scottish nation was compelled to pass, and its effects are to be seen in the vigorous efforts which followed under Wallace and Bruce. In addition to former troubles, the Norman Conquest and its influence, indirect rather than otherwise, but none the less real and galling, had, in the Lowlands, introduced feudality with its burdens and oppressions. In the next chapter will appear how far resistance to the Norman system lay at the bottom of the great national struggle.

Meanwhile it is well to recall the facts regarding race already insisted upon. One race which figures in ancient story vanished early from history and was known no more. What the Picts were it is impossible to tell; perhaps they were Cymri, like the Ancient Britons of the south, acted upon by Gothic influences of some sort, Scandinavian or Teutonic. At any rate they were not Scoti or Gaels, and to us the survival of the name in "the Picts of Galloway" seems to indicate a Cymric basis. "It has been usually supposed," says Mr. Burton, "that the reign of Malcolm and Margaret was the turning-point, at which the court, which had been Celtic, became a Saxon court, with a dash of Norman to adorn it; but of this we cannot be sure. One thing is certain, that a Teutonic population existed far beyond their jurisdiction. Long after Norman feudality had stamped its impress on southern Scotland, it was unknown north of the Tay, where the Saxon institutions of that age survived in all their purity. That crowds of Saxons fled from oppression in England is true; but that immigration was too limited to account for the settled nature of the Saxon population all over the east and north, with institutions, language, and manners complete; and if the facts seem to warrant such a theory, all that need be said is, so much the worse for the facts - or rather for those who undertake to interpret them. Leaving the Picts out of the question, there were four distinct peoples at least in Scotland at an early period, the Gaelic or Irish Celts, the Cymric or British Celts, as in Strathclyde, the Norsemen, and the Saxons, including under this name all the Teutonic tribes of the Southern Baltic and German Ocean. In what condition the conglomerate nation - if such a name may be applied to a mass of autonomous tribes, septs, and lordships - found itself at or near the end of the thirteenth century has been imperfectly shown. It is now our task to mount to a higher level, breathe a purer and more bracing air in the noble struggle which the Norman kings forced upon Scotland, and out of which she emerged, if not happy and secure, at all events, victorious and free.

* The Scot Abroad, Vol. i, p. 4.

** Veitch; Border History and Poetry, p 122. See also Burton's History, vol. ii, chap, vii. The historian examines the peculiar Christianity of this time, and the more permanent work of Columba, Kentigern and Cuthbert, contrasting it with the fully developed Catholisim subsequently introduced from Rome.

*** In Kempion a weird legendary ballad, St. Mungo is celebrated as a deliverer:

" None shall take pity her upon,
In Wormeswood, aye, shall she be won;
And relieved shall she never be,
Till St. Mungo comes over the sea."

And Bishop Forbes quotes as the battle-prayer of the Scottish borderers: - "Godde arid St Mungo, Saint Ronayn and Saint Andrew, schield us this day fro' Goddes grace, and the foul death that Englishmen dien on."

+Green's History. Vol. i., Book ii., chap. i., p.133.

++ Carlyle: Early Kings of Norway.-Chap. xv.

+++ By the hand of the veteran master are also written these remarks, which would seem to point to the conclusion that Alexander III. had not much more to do with Haco's discomfiture than Elizabeth with the fate of the Armada:--" Of Largs, there is no mention whatever in Norse books. But beyond any doubt, such is the other evidence, Hakon did land there; land and fight, not conquering rather than beaten; and very certainly retiring to his ships, as in either case he behooved to do! It is further certain that he was dreadfully maltreated by the weather on those wild coasts; and altogether credible, as the Scotch records bear, that he was so at Largs very specially. The Norse records or Sagas say merely that he lost many of his ships by the tempests, and many of his men by land-fighting in various parts, - tacitly including Largs no doubt, which was the last of these misfortunes to him. In the battle here he lost 15,000 men,' say the Scots, 'we 5,000!' Divide these numbers by ten, and the excellently brief and lucid summary by Buchanan may be taken as the approximately true and exact. Date of the battle is A. D. 1263." Ibid.

*+ Hist. ii. 100.

**+ The convoy which attended Erics bride to Norway met with a dire mishap coming home, which is celebrated in the ballad of "Sir Patrick Spens." Before reaching the catastrophe, which is properly reserved for the last, there is a quaint description of the treatment the guests received, when "they hadna been there a week." This is what the "lords of Norway" said to Spens and his comrades; -

" Ye Scottishmen spend a our king's goud,
And a our queenis fee."
"Ye lie, ye lie, ye liars loud!
Fu' loud I hear ye lie;

"For I hae brought as much white monie,
As gave (sufficed) my men and me,
And I hae brought a half-fou of gude red goud,
Out o'er the sea wi me."

The result is an immediate order to embark issued by Sir Patrick in anger. They are caught in a storm and the result is pathetically told in the last five stanzas. This is the concluding one: -

"Half owre, half owre, to Aberdour,
Tis fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet."

This ballad was long thought to have been the oldest specimen of its kind; but it would appear that both it and "Hardyknute," which relates to the battle of Largs, were written by Elizabeth Halkett, Lady Wardlaw.

***+The Ballads and Songs of Scotland, in view of their influence on the character of the people. By J. Clark Murray, LL.D., McGill College, Montreal.

Previous Page | Return to Index Page | Next Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus