Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Panegyric on Bruce

Being the fragment of a panegyric given prior to midnight on the 23rd of June, 1314,
by Robert de Brus and recorded faithfully, after the Battle of Bannockburn, by Sir Thomas Colville of Gosford, a natural son of Sir Thomas Colville, Lord of Oxnam.

“My Lords, who'd listen for to hear,
romance begins now here.”
– John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen

...to doubt this truth, this awful fact, disposed
'fore God this night with head and heart exposed
to doubts and cares in woebegone array
would be to say, we have a choice this day,
(think you that's true?) I fear you'd not yet stay
and choosing lose, instead decide to stray
from path of destined fate, our purpose right,
o men of steel be true and weigh your might
against what's yours by gift and grant to hold,
defend and keep, let feudal rule be tholed,
it matters not we're here, this watershed,
where bolder now by far since Wallace led
his men; afraid? not he! (I think you know)
we are the brave, are we afeard here now?
(uncertain looks, I see) they're echoed here,
behind these eyes, my own, there lurks, not fear,
a dread perhaps? (for death think you?) this night
my friends, that altered state holds neither fright,
nor angst, a dies natalis, day of birth,
yet I retain a fearful glance (such mirth!)
it cannot be, for fear of failure looms,
it eats at me, for which my Lady swoons
lest we regret this day that's come so near,
a morn, if lose we do, when all I fear
above all else, the fact of Scotland's shame
and not for dying mind, for that, no blame,
for not aspiring high, for triumph's lack,
for stripes, the masters's game on victim's back
and murder, famine, pain all etched in gall,
in vacant eyes of villein and the thrall,
those folks for whom without we'd not survive
for whom perhaps we fight, I may surmise
(what's that my friends?) you think I rant or worse,
have lost my senses now to speak out thus?
for all ye fight for gain of land in fee,
rewarded all shall be who fights with me
and rightly so, for Norman Seigneurie,
but stop, pray think, may I suggest it be
your duty lies with you and with your tail,
for who will tend the land for whom if fail
upon this Park that stretches south to burn
with limbs agley, our blood to feed the worm,
if all that we achieve this day forsooth,
this day, this fateful day, this day of truth,
the Feast of John the Baptist, Saint of Rome,
let this be Scotland's day, let's send him home;
outnumbered by the King's men ten to one
(you hear the din, their camp's not far off, son!)
de Bohun no longer with them, headstrong lapse,
no braver, foolish knight at such synapse,
he challenged King of Scots upon the field,
yet pose yourselves this query why he failed
when mounted on a horse against my mount
and wearing helmet, steel cuirass, so stout
(ye murmur 'mongst yourselves?) I'll tell you why,
a gesture from our God, the Lord on high,
despite the sentence passed from Avignon,
declared unchurched by Clement Pope, now gone,
who has expired, while conclave ballots votes
it gives respite, a cry of hope from throats
renewed and I, that hewed Red Comyn down
forsaken I am not, by God! (ye frown?)
as yesterday upon the field I struck
and down he fell, the blow that did its work
was guided by that hand, the reaper's thief
renews our hope, restores our faith, belief
in that we're right to stand and fight, destroy,
disdain the odds that Edward's men enjoy
(and send him homeward, do you say we can?)
as well ye know, this King is scarce a man
for strife, who thinks this war's already won,
we're dealing not with father, but the son
who must avoid the shame, curtail dismay
get Stirling Castle back by deadline day,
unlike his sire, his prime ancestral light,
a man you'd underrate through oversight
or fault and peril be the consequence
of that (a fine reward ye say?) nonsense!
It's not the older Edward Rex that shines,
who led his armies north too many times,
who coaxed the fires from hell, unwelcome guest
who tore the heart from hero's beating chest,
who drove a last crusade, caused this land strife
and died campaigning, how he lived his life,
contented not with Aquitaine and Wales,
with Ireland vanquished now beyond the pale,
he sought dominion here to add to fame
as Hammer of the Scots he played a game,
direct in line from Odin, doubtless Thor,
as Normands heir, he always wanted more
and now the Hammer's son, a mallet just
who covets what he doesn't want but must,
his goal to vie, compete, with father's ire
he lacks, it's plain, the spirit of his sire
and yet beset by hazard here, one throw
is all we have, once cast, the dice will show
we trust full sure in strength, we do but seek
their doom and pray for one mistake, thou meek
and English King, esteem us false and rue
the day you challenged Scots of iron brood
(I see ye nod at that, my Good Sir James)
we fight, but not for glory's sake nor fame,
nor welfare of a nation not yet born,
the battle looms for life, for if we're shorn,
revenge endured shall cause good men to wail,
we've come too far from Methven Wood to fail,
our fate awaits, think now of honour's heights
against the wagered sums of English knights
who'll flounder ’neath the trees, a countless sum
will die upon our spears, we'll not succumb
to yoke of southern foe, we'll make him burn
his bannocks men, like Alfred whom we'd scorn,
and strive, advance, with but one hundred men
of us alive, if that's the outcome when
the day is done, declare your rights, your oath,
remember that, when next we're in Arbroath
and set your heart and strength to win the day,
await your foes that come in horse array
and ride with speed, their arms so boldly brought,
we'll wreak our mighty will, be vengeance wrought
with one accord and stubborn versus cruel,
we'll stoutly meet the first and still the fools,
the hindmost, make them tremble, have a care
to carry honour men, this day and bear
your arms with pride to gain the end I pray,
o Scotland fight with valour, not dismay,
ye might have lived in thraldom, never earned,
but freedom's not for giving up when yearned
for now's the time and now's the hour to fight,
Almighty God, we seek your guiding light.

By Ian Colville.

More on Ian tomorrow.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tarah Scott on the Highland Clearances

How does a woman tell her betrothed that she murdered her first husband?

Elise Kingston is a wanted woman. Nothing, not even Highlander Marcus MacGregor, will stop her from returning home to ensure that the man responsible for her daughter's death hangs.

Until she must choose between his life and her revenge.

My upcoming release and first book in the Highland Lords series, the Scottish Historical My Highland Love, is set in 1825. When I began my research for this book, I was intrigued by the history behind the centuries long feud between the MacGregors and the Campbells.

Here's a glimpse into how the conflict began.

In 1519, Iain of Glenstrae died with no direct heirs. This plunged the Clan Gregor into disarray as the powerful Campbells asserted claim to the last remaining MacGregor lands. In 1560, the Campbells dispossessed Gregor Roy MacGregor, who waged war against the Campbells for ten years before being captured and killed. His son, Alistair, claimed the MacGregor chiefship but was utterly unable to stem the tide of persecution which was to be fate of the "Children of the Mist."

Argyle and his Clan Campbell henchmen were given the task of hunting down the MacGregors. About sixty of the clan made a brave stand at Bentoik against a party of two-hundred chosen men belonging to the Clan Cameron, Clan MacNab, and Clan Ronald, under command of Robert Campbell, son of the Laird of Glen Orchy. In this battle, Duncan Aberach, one of the Chieftains of the Clan Gregor, his son Duncan, and seven other MacGregors were killed. But although they made a brave resistance, and killed many of their pursuers, the MacGregors, after many skirmishes and great losses, were at last overcome. Excerpt taken from Wikipedia Clan Gregor.

So we move forward in time to the eighteenth century and find that the Highlanders are betrayed by their own lords.

The Highland Clearances (Scottish Gaelic: Fuadach nan GĂ idheal, the expulsion of the Gael) was the forced displacement of a significant number of people in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th century, as a result of an agricultural revolution (also known as enclosure) carried out by hereditary aristocratic landowners. The changes were seen to be supported by the government, who gave financial aid for roads and bridges to assist the new sheep-based agriculture and trade. The clearances were particularly notorious as a result of the late timing, the lack of legal protection for year-by-year tenants under Scots law, the abruptness of the change from the traditional clan system, and the brutality of many evictions.

Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland, and her husband George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland, conducted brutal clearances between 1811 and 1820. Evictions at the rate of 2,000 families in one day were not uncommon. Many starved and froze to death where their homes had once been. The Duchess of Sutherland, on seeing the starving tenants on her husband's estate, remarked in a letter to a friend in England, "Scotch people are of happier constitution and do not fatten like the larger breed of animals."

According to highlandclearances.com
Nobody pursued the clearance policy with more vigour and cruel thoroughness than Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, and her name is still reviled in many homes with Highland connections across the world to this day.

Donald McLeod, a Sutherland crofter, later wrote about the events he witnessed:

The consternation and confusion were extreme. Little or no time was given for the removal of persons or property; the people striving to remove the sick and the helpless before the fire should reach them; next, struggling to save the most valuable of their effects. The cries of the women and children, the roaring of the affrighted cattle, hunted at the same time by the yelling dogs of the shepherds amid the smoke and fire, altogether presented a scene that completely baffles description -- it required to be seen to be believed.

A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole country by day, and even extended far out to sea. At night an awfully grand but terrific scene presented itself -- all the houses in an extensive district in flames at once. I myself ascended a height about eleven o'clock in the evening, and counted two hundred and fifty blazing houses, many of the owners of which I personally knew, but whose present condition -- whether in or out of the flames -- I could not tell. The conflagration lasted six days, till the whole of the dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins. During one of these days a boat actually lost her way in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but at night was enabled to reach a landing-place by the lurid light of the flames.

From there, I discovered something very interesting: the Campbells, a very powerful clan, took advantage of the turning political tide to rid the land of their old enemy, and seized MacGregor land at every opportunity.

These are the major elements behind the family history of Marcus MacGregor, the hero in My Highland Love. Clan leader Marcus MacGregor, Marquess of Ashlund, is next in line to rule his branch of the MacGregors. Marcus is an educated man, a modern man. He understands the need for peace. But the blood of his ancestors cries out at each atrocity that is still committed against his people by their centuries old enemies.

Here's a peek into Marcus' thoughts.

Marcus surged to his feet. He strode to the wall, where hung the claymore belonging to his ancestor Ryan MacGregor, the man who saved their clan from annihilation. Marcus ran a finger along the blade, the cold, hard steel heating his blood as nothing else could. Except… Campbells.

Had two centuries of bloodshed not been enough?

Fifty years ago King George finally proclaimed the MacGregors no longer outlaws and restored their Highland name. General John Murray, Marcus's great uncle, was named clan chief. Only recently, the MacGregors were given a place of honor in the escort, which carried the "Honors of Scotland" before the sovereign. Marcus had been there, marching alongside his clansmen.

Too many dark years had passed under this cloud. Would the hunted feeling Ryan MacGregor experienced ever fade from the clan? Perhaps it would have been better if Helena hadn't saved Ryan that fateful day so long ago. But Ryan had lived, and his clan thrived, not by the sword, but by the timeless power of gold. Aye, the Ashlund name Helena gave Ryan saved them. Yet, Ryan MacGregor's soul demanded recompense.

How could Ryan rest while his people still perished?

I think Marcus captures the heart of what Hal MacGregor of the MacGregor clan says on his blog:
From the MacGregor viewpoint, they had always seized and held their substantial properties by the sword, and, in their own judgment, were quite capable of doing just that. Their fierceness in defending their homelands was renowned and had been proved time and time again.

My Highland Love is now available at Silver Publishing.