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 Scottish Nation

BARTON, a surname supposed to have been originally derived from Bereton, that is, the farm of bere or barley. It is the name of numerous localities in England, as Barton-on-Humber, and others, amounting to nearly forty in all. In some instances the name may have been given to a small port, having a bar of sand blocking up its entrance, and in others applied to a small enclosure or farm having a bar gate. It is also the name of a peculiar kind of block and tackle of great power.

      Barton is properly an English name. The Bartons of Barton Hall were an ancient family in Lancashire, having branches in Ireland and Scotland. There was also an old family of Barton of Smithills in the same county, recorded in the Herald’s Visitation of 1567, but subsequently established in the palatinate of Chester.

BARTON, ANDREW, a distinguished naval commander, of the reign of James the Fourth, belonged to a family which, for two generations, had produced able and successful seamen, and were intrusted by the king with the principal authority in all maritime and commercial matters in Scotland. To the increase of his navy, and to nautical affairs in general, King James paid particular attention, and the Bartons not only purchased vessels for him on the continent, and invited into Scotland the most skillful foreign shipbuilders, but sold to him some of their own ships. In the reign of the fourth James the Scottish navy consisted of sixteen ships of war, besides one vessel called the Great Michael, the largest then known to be in the world, and which, as an old author says, “cumbered all Scotland to get her fitted out for sea.” The daring and skill of the Bartons, of whom there were three brothers, and of Andrew in particular, had raised them to a renown scarcely inferior to that of the famous admiral, Sir Andrew Wood himself, who flourished in the same reign; and the prowess of Andrew Barton was put to the proof on the following occasion. A small fleet of Scottish merchantmen had been piratically attached by some Dutch ships, and plundered of their cargoes, while the crews, after being murdered, were thrown overboard. Andrew Barton was instantly despatched with a squadron to take signal vengeance on the perpetrators of this cruel deed. Many of the pirates were captured; and the admiral commanded the hogsheads, which were stowed in the holds of his vessels, to be filled with the heads of his prisoners, and sent as a present to his royal master. So early as the year 1476, the ships belonging to the Bartons were plundered by a Portuguese squadron, and as the king of Portugal refused to make any amends, letters of reprisal were granted to the Barton family by the Scottish monarch, authorizing them to take all Portuguese vessels with should come in their way, until they had fully indemnified themselves for their losses. The Portuguese mariners, on their part, were not slow to retaliate, and in 1507, the Lion, commanded by John Barton, the father of Andrew, was seized at Campvere, in Zealand, and its commander thrown into prison. His sons procured from King James a renewal of their letters of reprisal, and fitted out two strong ships, the larger called the Lion, and the lesser the Jenny Pirwen, which they placed under the command of Andrew Barton. With these he cruised in the Channel, intercepting and capturing, at various times, many of the richly laden vessels returning from the Portuguese settlements in India and Africa; and, as Tyler remarks, the unwonted apparition of blackamoors at the Scottish court, and black empresses presiding over the royal tournaments, is to be traced to the spirit and success of the Scottish privateers. Not content, however, with stopping the Portuguese ships, and making prizes of them, whenever they could, the Bartons detained and searched English merchant vessels bound for Portugal, or coming from that country, under the pretence that they had Portuguese goods on board. In consequence of this, they were treated by the English as pirates; and the council board of England, at which the earl of Surrey, (afterwards created Duke of Norfolk,) presided, was continually receiving complaints from the sailors and merchants, that Barton was in the practice of intercepting English vessels, and praying redress. King Henry, not willing to come to a rupture with the king of Scotland, at first paid little attention to these complaints. The earl of Surrey, however, could not conceal his indignation, and, on hearing of some late excesses of the privateers, declared that “the narrow seas should not be so infested whilst he had an estate that could furnish a ship, or a son who was able to command it.” He accordingly fitted out two men-of-war, which were manned by well selected crews, archers, and men-at-arms, and placed under the command of his two sons, Sir Thomas Howard, called by old historians Lord Howard, afterwards created earl of Surrey in his father’s lifetime, and Sir Edward Howard, afterwards lord high admiral of England. Having put to sea he fell in with Andrew Barton cruising in the Downs, having been guided to his whereabouts by the captain of a merchantman which Barton had plundered on the previous day. This took place in July, 1511. On approaching Barton, the English vessels showed no colours or ensigns of war, but put up a willow wand on their masts, that being the emblem of a trading vessel. But when Barton ordered them to bring to, the English threw out their flags and pennons, and fired a broadside. The Scotch admiral then knew that he had English vessels to contend with. Barton commanded his own ship, the Lion, to which was opposed Sir Thomas Howard; his other vessel was only an armed pinnace, named the Union, called by Hall the bark of Scotland; but far from being dismayed at the odds against him, he engaged boldly, and in a rich dress and bright armour, appeared on deck, with a whistle of gold about his neck, suspended by a golden chain, and encouraged his men to fight valiantly. A gold whistle was in those days the sign of the office of high admiral. The battle that ensued was most obstinately contested. On both sides the most determined valour was displayed, till the Scottish admiral was desperately wounded. It is said that even then this bold and experienced seaman continued to encourage his men with his whistle till death closed his career.

      In an old ballad, on this sea fight, fought before England had a navy at all, entitled, ‘Sir Andrew Barton,’ it is related that

                        With pikes and gunnes, and bowemen bold,
                              The noble Haward is gone to the sea;
                        With a valyant heart, and a pleasant cheare,
                              Out at Thames mouth sayled hee.
                        And days he scant had sayled three
                              Upon the ‘voyage’ he took in hand,
                        But there he met with a noble shipp,
                              And stoutly made itt stay and stand.

                        “Thou must tell me,” Lord Howard sayes,
                              “Now who thou art, and what’s thy name;
                        And shewe me where thy dwelling is,
                              And whither bound, and whence thou came.”
                        “My name is Henrye Hunt,” quoth hee,
                              With a heavye heart, and a carefull mind;
                        “I and my shipp doe both belong
                              To the Newcastle that stands upon Tyne.”

                        “Hast thou not heard, now Henrye Hunt,
                              As thou hast sayled by daye and by night,
                        Of a Scottish rover on the seas,
                              Men call him Sir Andrew Barton, Knight?”
                        Then ever he signed and sayd alas!
                              With a grieved mind, and well away,
                        “But over well I knowe that wight,
                              I was his prisoner yesterday.”

      If we are to believe this ballad, Barton’s ship, the Lion, was furnished with a peculiar contrivance suspending large weights or beams from his yardarms, for the purpose of being dropped down upon the enemy when they should come alongside. This was an old stratagem of the Romans, which the Scottish admiral had adopted with great success. Barton and these beams are thus described by the said “Henrye Hunt;”

                        “He is brasse within, and steel without,
                              With beames on his topcastle stronge,
                        And thirtye pieces of ordinance
                              He carries on each side slonge;
                        And he hath a pinnace deerlye dight,
                              St. Andrewes crosse itt is his guide,
                        His pinnace beareth ninescore men,
                              And fifteen canons on each side.

                        “Were ye twentye shippes, and he but one,
                              I sweare by kirke, and bower, and hall,
                        He wold orecome them every one,
                              If once his beames they doe downe fall.”
                        “This is cold comfort,” sayes my lord,
                              “To welcome a stranger on the sea,
                        Yett Ile bring him and his shipp to shore,
                              Or to Scotland he shall carry mee.”

      The ballad proceeds to relate that Henry Hunt guided Howard to the place where Barton’s ships lay, and on coming up with them, he ordered all his ensigns to be furled:

                        “Take in your ancyents, standards eke,
                              So close that no man may them see,
                        And put me forth a white willowe wand,
                              As merchants use that sayle the sea.”
                        But they stirred neither top or mast,
                              Stoutly they past Sir Andrew by;
                        “What English churles are yonder,” he sayd,
                              “That can so little curtesye.

                        “Now by the roode, three years and more
                              I have been admirall on the sea;
                        And never an English nor Portingall
                              Without my leave can passe this way.”
                        Then called he forth his stout pinnace,
                              “Feetche backe yond pedlars nowe to mee;
                        I sweare by the masse, you English churles
                              Shall all hang at my maine-mast tree.”

                        With that the pinnace itt shott off,
                              Full well Lord Howard might it ken,
                        For it strake downe his foremast tree
                              And killed fourteen of his men.

      The English commander then ordered his gunner, “good Peter Simon,” to fire off his ordnance, which he did with effect;

                        And he lett goe his great gunnes shott,
                              Soe well he settled itt with his ee;
                        The first sight that Sir Andrew sawe,
                              He sawe his pinnace sunke i’ the sea.

                        And when he sawe his pinnace sunke,
                              Lord, how his heart with rage did swell!
                        “Nowe cutt my ropes, itt is time to be gon,
                              Ile fetch you pedlars backe mysel.”
                        When my lord sawe Sir Andrewe loose,
                              Within his heart he was full faine;
                        “Nowe spreade your ancyents, strike up drummes,
                              Sound all your trumpetts out amaine!”

      The English seem to have been most apprehensive of the beams on the yardarms, but to make use of this contrivance, it was necessary that some one should ascend the mainmast; and Howard had stationed in a proper place a Yorkshire gentleman, named Horseley, the best archer in his ship, with strict injunctions to let fly an arrow at every one who should attempt to go up the riggings of Barton’s vessel. Two of Barton’s officers, named Gordon and James Hamilton, the latter his “only sister’s sonne,” were successively killed in the attempt. Barton himself, confiding in the strong armour which he wore, then began to ascend the mast. Lord Thomas Howard called out to the archer to shoot true, on peril of his life. “Were I to die for it,” answered Horseley, “I have but two arrows left.” The first which he shot bounded from Barton’s armour, without hurting him; but as the Scotch admiral raised his arm to climb higher, the archer took aim where the armour afforded him no protection, and wounded him mortally through the armpit.

                        Sir Andrew he did swarve the tree,
                              With right good will he swarved them;
                        Upon his breast did Horseley hitt,
                              But the arrow bounded back agen.
                        Then Horseley spyed a privye place
                              With a perfect eye in a secrette part;
                        Under the spole of his right arme,
                              He smote Sir Andrew to the heart.

Jumping upon deck, Barton addressed his men: “Fight on,” he said, “my brave hearts; I am a little wounded, but not slain. I will but rest awhile, and then rise and fight again; meantime, stand fast by St. Andrew’s cross;” meaning the flag of Scotland.

                        “Fight on, my men,” Sir Andrew sayes,
                              “A little I’m hurt, but yett not slaine,
                        I’le but lye donne and bleede awhile,
                              And then I’le rise and fight againe.
                        Fight on, my men,” Sir Andrew sayes,
                              “And never flinche before the foe;
                        And stand fast by St. Andrewe’s cross,
                              Until you heare my whistle blow.”

                        They never hears his whistle blow,
                              Which made their hearts waxe sore adread,
                        Then Horseley sayd, “Aboard, my lord,
                              For well I wott Sir Andrew’s dead.”
                        They boarded then his noble shipp,
                              They boarded it with might and maine,
                        Eighteen score Scotts alive they found,
                              The rest were either maimed or slaine.

                        Lord Howard tooke a sword in hand,
                              And off he smote Sir Andrewe’s head,
                        “I must ha’ left England many a daye,
                              If thou were alive as thou art dead.”
                        He caused his bodye to be cast,
                              Over the hatchborde into the sea,
                        And about his middle three hundred crownes,
                              “Wherever thou land this will bury thee.”

      Barton’s ship, the Lion, thus captured, was carried into the Thames, and became the second man-of-war in the English navy. The Great Harry, which had been built only seven years before, namely in 1504, was properly speaking the first. On this celebrated ship Henry the Seventh expended  £14,000, a great sum in those days, equivalent to the coast of a modern ship of the line. With that monarch the rise of a royal navy in England is said to have originated. Before his time, when the king wanted a fleet, the five ports, then the largest in England, and still called the Cinque Ports, furnished a certain equipment of ships and men; vessels were also hired from merchants, and manned and armed for war. Ambitious of being independent of the irregular navy derived from such various and uncertain sources, Henry paid great attention to the building of large ships exclusively for warlike purposes, and he took care to keep them in a highly efficient and progressive state. His son, Henry the Eighth, caused to be constructed the then largest English ship, called Henry Grace de Dieu, or the Great Harry, after the ship of the same name, built by his father. This is said to have been the first ship which had four masts, and was considered the wonder of the sixteenth century.

      Thus died Andrew Barton, With King James he was a personal favourite, and he sent a herald to King Henry to demand redress for the death of his ablest officer, and the loss of his ships; but Henry returned no milder answer than that the fate of pirates ought never to be a matter of dispute among princes. He, however, after a short imprisonment dismissed Barton’s crew, with a small sum each to defray their homeward charges. This affair was one of the remote causes of the disastrous battle of Flodden, in which James the Fourth was slain. – Tyler’s History of Scotland, vol. v. – Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather. – Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.

Return to The Scottish Nation Index 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