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Clan Wood

Got this contribution in from the clan society on Jan 14th 2018...

Among the earliest surviving mentions of the name in Scottish annals are those dating back to Lord Wilhelmus (Wm.) de Bosco (bosco = wood translated into clerical Latin). On the 28th June 1211, King William the Lion appointed him Chancellor of Scotland, in which dignity he was confirmed by King Alexander II when the dominance of powerful Normans in Scotland was at its height. William lived and worked in the populous and comparatively wellheeled Lothian region at Ogilface by Edinburgh. He was concurrently Archdeacon of Lothian from 1214 till his death in 1231. [Back in 1203, the castle, lands and income of Ogilface were bestowed on Edinburgh's Holyrood Abbey - founded by King David I in 1128 - whose church was being rebuilt at the time.] One of the most influential noblemen of his day, William would have been the obvious choice to be their tenant-in-chief. In due course, the estate became a free barony fully within the control of his family from which the clan’s chiefs have descended.

Lord High Admiral Sir Andrew Wood of Largo was born in Leith, on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, around the middle of the 15th century. He was the eldest son of Alexander de Wod, burgess and bailie of neighbouring Edinburgh, whose wife was Elizabeth de Crichton, daughter of the glamorous Sir George de Crichton, Earl of Caithness and Lord High Admiral of Scotland, who died in 1454.

The heraldry depicted on a surviving wax impression of Alexander's seal confirms that he was descended from the family of the aforementioned Wilhelmus de Bosco (Wood) of Ogilface. Alexander was representer (head) of the already venerable senior line of a network of related Wood families that could boast a long history of personal service to the Scottish Crown and of occupying productive lands in Lothian, Cromarty, Aberdeenshire, Fife, Angus, Kincardineshire, Banffshire and elsewhere, some since the early 12th century.

In all likelihood, those families coalesced into an identifiable force to become one of the clans that arose nationwide, for security, around the turn of the 14th century, feasibly behind Thomas de Bosco of Ogilface, when Scotland's very survival was in doubt. The three principal areas still held around 1615 in the reign of King James VI (James I of England) are shown in the reliable authorised map, 'Scotland of Old', published by Collins in 1998. (Copies of that fascinating map can be obtained from kilt-makers ScotClans of Edinburgh  or  Ask for it by name.)

Clan chief: Joseph John Hugh Fawcett Wood of Largo.

For more information, visit the Clan Wood Society’s website

Sir Andrew Wood

Heir to his father as Chief of the Name and to a substantial ship-owning family enterprise headed by generations of Edinburgh patricians, Andrew was likewise a successful merchant. His ship of choice seems to have been the celebrated carrack, Flower, which he could afford to arm with the very latest ordnance being developed in continental Europe. He was a master of fighting off French, Dutch, English and Portuguese pirates.The fame of his exploits led King James III to commission him to captain his ship, the Yellow Caravel. [Yes, mediaeval monarchs, too, were in the import-export business.] Sailing out of Edinburgh's port of Leith, Andrew and his highly trained crews triumphed in many skirmishes with 'hunter-gatherer' privateers as well as in sanguinary engagements with marauding squadrons sent by the English government. Granted the lands of Largo in Fife by royal charter (1477), he was appointed Lord High Admiral of Scotland (1488) and was knighted around 1493. He received the king's licence to castellate his great house - once a residence for widowed queens of Scotland - at his barony of Largo, a tower of which still stands. From there he and his watchmen could maintain surveillance of the broad estuary of the River Forth. He also owned dwelling houses over in Leith that no doubt would have been just as opulently appointed and fitted out with stylish furnishings - much of it, like silks and damascene fabrics, fine Flemish wall tapestries and colourful, newly fashionable Bohemian glassware, conveyed from afar in the family's own trading vessels.

(There are Port of Leith accounts indicating that, in the 1480s, Andrew relinquished his commercial interests to his younger brother, William, who is thereafter recorded as supplying the king with ships together with equipment and timber for ship work. Their youngest brothers, ship-masters John and Robert, are alluded to by a 19th century historian as being with Andrew's fleet when it patrolled the River Forth while the 1488 Battle of Sauchieburn was being fought out near Stirling. William's son John took over from his father in 1512.)

By this time, Sir Andrew can be said to have founded the House of Wood of Largo, thus making his father, Alexander, the last chief to pass away being of the House of Wood of Ogilface.

Accompanied by King James IV in July 1494, Wood commanded a squadron heavily armed with skilfully deployed cannonry that battered into submission the westerm islands strongholds of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, thus terminating centuries of that powerful race being a barb in the flesh of successive kings of Scotland. However, the remaining client chiefs there quickly resumed their feuding with the northern clans, requiring the king, his marischal, his high admiral and major players like the Earl of Huntly to intervene repeatedly both militarily and by diplomacy. A rebellion in 1503 against the king's appointed governor, the Earl of Argyle, impelled the exasperated admiral to fall upon them with such overwhelming force that they unconditionally capitulated and ultimately even declared their allegiance to the king. British navy analysts and historians like Oxford's Dr. Nicholas Rodger consider that final expedition as marking the end of mediaeval naval warfare - grappling hooks; boarding parties of armoured soldiers; vicious hand-to-hand combat on fighting decks; missiles fired from mast tops - with the innovation of 'softening-up' artillery bombardments that Sir Andrew is thought to have increasingly employed from early in his career, in which case he is likely to have proposed the campaign in the first place and obtained from the king's council the money needed to pay for it.

As the monarch's chief naval adviser, he planned and supervised from 1505 the development of the New Haven of Leith which led to the town's growth as an important shipbuilding centre, where he oversaw the rise of the world's largest ship, the Great Michael - designed as a sort of 'nuclear deterrent' of the era. [It was another Wood who, 300 years later, reputedly did most to plant the rootstock of the giant shipbuilding industry that would one day flourish on Clydeside. See the Famous Woods pages.]

Due to the king's death in the slaughter at §1Flodden in September 1513 and the political instability that ensued, Sir Andrew was charged to convey parliament's invitation to John Stewart, Duke of Albany, residing in France, to assume the Regency for the infant James V. He safely brought the royal duke through hostile waters into Dumbarton on the 26th of May 1515. It was to be the Admiral's last major service for his country: Sir Andrew Wood died before the 3rd of November 1517, most likely in 1515. Enjoying the friendship of successive Stewart monarchs, his significance to Scottish history, and that of his forebears and descendants, is far greater than is sometimes remembered today. Motto: Tutus in Undis - 'Safe amid the waves'.

[Douglas A. Speirs, the distinguished Head of Archaeology at St Andrews and lead adviser to Fife Council on all matters concerning the historical environment, has written in the press: "Sir Andrew Wood is a figure of immense magnitude who deserves to be as well-known as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce." The full text of his informed statement can be seen alongside a review of the biography 'Scotland's Admiral' in the Clan Shop.]



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