"O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content"
Robbie Burns

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Andrew de Moray

Today, September 11 is the 713th anniversary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge which was the first successful major battle for Scottish independence over the English Army of King Edward I. If you at all remember the scene from the movie BRAVEHEART you will remember that it is portrayed as a victory for the Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, who after this battle was knighted and made guardian of Scotland. But the story of this battle and early rebellious uprisings have been distorted in favor of Wallace. Sure we know that William Wallace accomplishments garnered him a towering monument that overlooks the valley from Bannockburn to the castle at Stirling and he died at the hands of the English in 1305 after being betrayed by a fellow Scottish countrymen. But where is the monument for Andrew de Moray?

Who is he you might ask?

An etching of de Moray

Andrew de Moray was a young Scottish nobleman from the area of Moray in the Scottish highlands. He was from a well established family in the Moray area, the de Moray's of Petty. The family had a manor called Hallhill on the southern bank of the Moray Firth, as well as the Avoc Castle which was east of Inverness and whose father held the Lordship of Avoch on the Black Isle. Andrew was connected to the very well connected Comyn family thru his stepmother Euphemia Comyn and the family supported the Balliol claim to the throne of Scotland. His father, also named Andrew, was the northern Justicar and was probably named as part of the guardianship of Scotland at the death of King Alexander III. And his father's brother William held lands in the south and had connections with the Douglas family. Andrew de Moray had Scottish noble connections unlike William Wallace, who was at best from a very minor knighly family and whose father Malcolm and grandfather Adam were only knights.

When King Edward of England was asked to adjudicate the conflicting claimants to the throne of Scotland Edward chose to side with the Balliol family's claim (connected to Comyn) over that of the Bruce family who also had a very close connection back to King David I of Scotland. Some believe that Edward went with the weaker of the claimants so as to control him. Edward was now envisioning himself overlord to both Balliol and Scotland. The problem was many of the Scottish nobles had lands in both Scotland and England (ie the Bruce, Balliol, Comyn and others) putting them in a position of rebellion of their overlord, Edward I, if they rebelled toward Scottish independence. Not so the de Moray clan, whose land was just in Scotland and whose loyalties were to Scotland first and foremost, after family of course. In 1296 Balliol renounced his fealty to the English King as the Scottish nobles including the de Morays ( or Murray a later form of the family name) began to prepare for war with the English. This group of Scottish nobleman marched toward Carlisle on the Anglo/Scottish Border, which was being held for Edward by none other than the Bruce family( yep, the future Scottish king). Unable to breach the castle they laid waste to the area around Cumberland and parts of Northumberland.

Meanwhile Edward and his English Army were attacking the port town of Berwick and had captured it for England. With Berwick secure they headed toward northeast into the Lothians where they met the Scottish forces that included the de Moray men at Dunbar. The English army led by John de Warrene (Earl of Surrey) overwhelmed the Scottish nobles who weren't prepared for such organized warfare and the de Moray men were captured and imprisoned. The elder Andrew de Moray and his brother William were important prisoners and were taken to the Tower of London in the south. The younger Andrew de Moray was not as important and was imprisoned at Chester. While they were imprisoned Edward brought in Hugh Cressingham as treasurer of Scotland and he imposed huge taxes to fill Edwards coffers. Cressingham became the most hated man in Scotland and his character did not help endear him to the Scottish people. Edward meanwhile was planning a war in Flanders, but money wasn't the only thing they wanted from Scotland. They wanted to conscript the Scottish nobles to fight for the English in Flanders. This did not go over at all well with the Scottish populace and the rumblings of rebellion began in large waves across Scotland.

Andrew de Moray sometime in late 1296 or early 1297 escaped from Chester and headed north to the lands of his father in Moray in Scotland where he began systematic hit and run engagements to harass the English who had taken the castles of the north. Just about the time Wallace was harassing the English in the south. Andrew began in his father's lands of Avoch but soon the burgess and common men of the area of Moray and Inverness joined forces with him and together they created such problems that the English captain at Urquhart Castle wrote to Edward asking for assistance naming de Moray as the culprit who was corrupting the populace. It is important to note it was not only de Moray and Wallace who were rebelling at the English occupation but others in places like Fife and Galloway where the local lairds struck back at the English forces which would run and hid behind the castle walls rather than engage the locals. De Moray laid siege to Urqhuart castle after attacking the English constable but without the kind of seige engines needed de Moray and Scottish rebels left the English to hide behind the walls.

Meanwhile Edward freed some of the prisoners he had taken at Dunbar and sent them north to quell de Moray, though they did confront each other, like the siege at Urquhart the Scots with de Moray seemed to retreat into the landscape. Some historians believe it was because those sent north were Comyns, kin to de Moray, that neither party put much effort into the engagement. De Moray had in time siezed most of the north especially the area around the Moray Firth. At the same time Wallace along with a Stewart and Bishop Wishart and Robert Bruce were causing trouble for the English in the south and central belt of Scotland. Angered that his people were not able to subdue de Moray in the north, King Edward issued a safe conduct letter for Andrew to take the place of his father in the tower, if his father would fight in Flanders for England. Andrew never responded to that letter if even got it. ( is no record survives that shows he ever got it)

By the summer of 1297 thanks to de Moray's efforts in the north the English held castles began to fall to the Scots as the English were driven out toward Aberdeen. Even Urquhart castle on Loch Ness fell to de Moray, but was this was (falsly) later attributed to William Wallace in the literature of Blind Harry. By the summer of 1297 the only castle north of the Firth of Forth in English control was Dundee and Edward decided that a show of force was needed and he advised John de Warrene (Surrey) and Hugh Cressingham to confront the rebels at Stirling. Meanwhile thougth it isn't clear how, it appears apparently that throughout the year of rebellion, both Wallace and de Moray were in contact with each other's forces and their forces met just outside of Dundee where they were to lay siege the castle. When they heard the English army was on the move the combined forces of Wallace and de Moray left a small force to contiue at Dundee and they headed to Stirling in an effort to beat the English there to get the upper ground for the battlefield.

The outcome of the Battle of Stirling Bridge where a much smaller Scottish force defeated the much larger English force was because of the skill of Andrew de Moray and NOT William Wallace. Wallace was a hit and run fighter where de Moray coming from a noble family was probably being groomed for knighthood at the time of the battle at Dunbar and had recieved tactical training. It was he who decided their position at Stirling and was the one who saw the advantage of forcing the battlefield near the bridge where the land was wet and boggy and would put the English knights on horseback at a disadvantage. Added to this the bridge was the only way to ford the river at this location, unless they wanted to go further upstream at a great distance, which the Scottish knights fighting with the English suggested but were rejected. Unfortunately to cross the bridge the English were limited to riding only two or three abreast and when the English army was almost half way across the bridge on the Scottish side, the English watched in horror as their forces were being cut down by the Scots. The English knights on horse couldn't manuver in the bog and were pushed back to the swollen river Forth. Many English drowned as they tried to retreat across the river and Cressingham, who lead the army, was one of the first to fall early in the engagement (legend has it that Wallace took a strip of his skin from head to foot and made a sheath for his sword- gruesome times). Surrey recognising defeat had the bridge burned so the Scots couldn't follow retreating the English army as it headed south toward Berwick.

This victory for the Scots had been a great moral boost but the cost was great. Andrew de Moray who was wounded in the battle lived only for a couple months dying in November from his wounds but not before recieving some honors. These young generals (de Moray and Wallace) of the victorious Scots army were both knighted and made generals of the Scottish Army and were made Guardians of Scotland or at least Wallace was ( records aren't sure de Moray lived long enough for this honor). Surving records include a letter with both their signatures on it that was sent to the European Hanseatic League stating that Scotland had been successfully returned to the Scots and that they were open for business with their former trading partners. The death of de Moray and his tactical skils was felt by the Scots when in the next year Wallace took the Scottish army up against the English at Falkirk and were stunningly defeated by the English army. It is believed by some historians because of Wallace's tactical defeat at Falkirk, that the success of Stirling Bridge was because of the tactical talent of Andrew de Moray though it is William Wallace who gets all the accolades. Andrew did leave a legacy, though his father died while a prisoner in the Tower of London and he died after Stirling Bridge, his son Andrew de Moray went on to become a Scottish warrior of the caliber of his father fighting with Robert Bruce and others after the Scots gained their independence from England.

Today there are those in Scotland who want to rectify the ommission of Andrew de Moray's contribution to the fight for Scottish independence and that he should have his rightful place in history: If this Scottish MP gets his way maybe finally Andrew de Moray will get a monument that is respectful of his contribution to fight for the independence of the Scottish nation.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Did you know that up until just a few years ago that Scotland was the only nation in which its national flag
the Saltire was not flown on its National Day?

Today t
he Saltire it is the Scottish national flag to be flown by all individuals and companies in Scotland to show their national pride in being Scottish. It is also now flown on all Scottish government buildings if there is only one flag pole and if there are two then the Union Jack flag of the UK is also flown also. On UK gov't buildings in Scotland they will fly the Union Jack and only if there is another flagpole will they fly the Saltire. The only exception to rule regarding national flag etiquette was finally made in 2002 after Scottish Parliament complained to Westminster that Scotland was the only nation where its national flag was not flown on government buildings on its National Day. So now in Scotland on November 30th- St Andrew's day where there is only one flag pole on a UK building in Scotland the Union Jack gives way to the Saltire. However, the Edinburgh Castle (and all military building/forts in Scotland as elsewhere in the UK) is a unique situation as it is still a government military facility and will only fly the Union Jack, much to the anger of many Scots throughout Scotland, especially when the military has removed the use the Union Jack in their recruitment material in Scotland. A double standard?

But why the St. Andrew's flag?

Each of the member countries of the United Kingdom have their own patron saint: Wales' St David, Ireland's St Patrick and England's St George. Scotland along with a number of other countries including Russia and Greece all have embraced St Andrew as their patron saint, he who was "first called". In Scotland there are many legends surrounding how he became their patron saint.

One legend suggests that in the tenth century his relics were brought to Scotland from Constantinople mysteriously to what is now St Andrews located in the Kingdom of Fife on the Scotland's northeast coast. The relics were brought legend claims by Regulus and presented to the Pictish King Oengus mac Fergus (900's). Two surviving manuscripts neither of which are archived in Scotland (London/Paris) elude to this particular legend. However, finding this person in the historic record has eluded historians. There was an Irish monk by this name, referred to as St Rule, was with St. Columba expelled from northern Ireland in the late 500's/early 600's not 900's. There maybe some truth to this because legend also suggests that Acca, Bishop of Hexham in the 700's brought them to a Pictish King and in doing so he created a see at what is now St. Andrews. Though other legends believe he didn't deliver them to St Andrews but to a Pictish King in the region of Galloway, the southwest corner of Scotland where Scotland first experienced Christianity with the appearance of St. Ninian in the 400's. That is if Bede is to be believed and hadn't tired to put a Saxon spin on the Chirstian religious history discounting the Celtic church. Either legend allows for the early Christian church and St Andrew's relics to date the church much to a much earlier period which is all important.

However as you will see with the video below, a more traditional and accepted legend is that during a battle between the Picts and the English at Athelstaneford in what is now East Lothian, the Pict King saw a cloud in the shape of the saltire... the St Andrew's cross with its crossed bars diagonally representing the cross on which St. Andrew was martyred. He declared if they were victorious then St Andrew would become the patron saint of Scotland. And they were which explains why they chose a blue background and a white (purity) cross.

Finally one legend to explain why St Andrew was chosen ties back to the Synod of Whitby in 664 when there was a clash between the Roman Church of Northumbria and the Celtic Church of Iona as to when the proper date of Easter was, amongst other church related issues (ie the tonsure and marriage rites of the Celts which clashed with their neighbors to the south). When the Roman Church prevailed the Celtic church licked its wounds and pulled out of Lindesfarne and Northumbria heading back over the border concentrating on Scotland. And as the Roman church had revered Peter, some believe the Scots being contrary (who would have thunk) decided that Peter's brother Andrew, the first called, would have preference in Scotland.

St Andrew's day is now celebrated in Scotland on November 30th and is a bank holiday. Traditionally St Andrew's day marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scotland, however like in the US that has been creeping further back to make a longer shopping season. It also is usually the beginning of Advent on or nearest Sunday to November 30th.

One tradition though maybe not practiced by modern misses is that just before midnight on the 29th of November young women prayed to St Andrews for a husband and would look for a sign in coming days to know if she had been heard. She might also throw a shoe at the door and if the shoe toes faced the door she would be leaving her family home within the year, supposedly through marriage. Though it is a bank holiday it is not a full "national" holiday probably because it only applies to Scotland, though the day is usually celebrated with food, dancing, bagpipes and all things Scottish.

So next time when you attend your local Highland Games or watch Tartan Army (Scottish sports fans) cheer on the Scottish national team at soccer or rugby you will know those blue painted faces with Scottish Saltires have nothing to do with Mel Gibson or Braveheart and everything to do with St. Andrew, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who was 'first called" along with his brother St. Peter.