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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Koslin.] THE THREE BATTLES ON ONE DAY. 351 hillside, and not beneath, but is attached to its eastern end, the means of communication between the two being by a steep descent of steps. Its use has sorely puzzled antiquaries, though it forms a handsome little chapel, with ribbed arches and roof of stone. Under its eastern window is an altar, and there is a piscina and anibry for the sacramental plate, together with a comfortable fireplace and a rob+ of closets. ?? Its domestic appurtenances,? says a writer, clearly- show. it. to have been the <house of: the priestvrcustodier of the chapel, and the ecclesiastical?types first named were for his private nieditation ; and thus the puzzle ceases.? Near the,chapel is St, Mathew?s Well. The parish of Roslin possesses many relics and traditions of the famous three battles which were fought there in one day-the 24th of February, 1302 :- ? Three triumphs in a day, Three hosts subdued in one, Beneath one common sun !? Three armies scattered like the spray On the 26th of January, 1302, the cruel and treacherous Edward I. of England concluded a treaty of truce-not peace-with Scotland, while, on the other hand, he prepared to renew the war against her. To this end he marched in an army of 2o,ooo--Some say 30,ooo-men, chiefly cavalry, under Sir John de Segrave, with orders?less to fight than to waste and devastate the already wasted country. To obtain ptovisions with more ease, Segrave marched his force in three columns, each a mile or two apart, and the 24th of February saw them on the north bank of the Esk, at three places, still indicated by crossed swords on the county map ; the first at Roslin ; the second . at Loanhead, on high ground, still named, from the battle, ? Killrig,? north of the village ; and the third at Park Bum, near Gilmerton Grange. Meanwhile, Sir John Comyn, Guardian of the Kingdom, and Sir Simon Fraser of Oliver Castle (the friend and comrade of Wallace), Heritable Sheriff of Tweeddale, after mustering a force of only 8,000 men-but men carefully selected and well armed-marched from Biggar in the night, and in the dull grey light of the February morning, in the wooded glen near Roslin Castle, came suddenly on the first column, under Segrave. Animated by a just thirst for vengeance, the Scots made a furious attack, and Segrave was rapidly routed, wounded, and taken prisoner, together with his brother, his son, sixteen knights, and thirty esquires, called sergeants by the rhyming English chronicler Langtoft. . The contest was barely over when the second column, alarmed by the fugitives, advanced from its camp at Loanhead, ?? and weary though the Scots were with their forced night march, flushed with their first success, and full of the most rancorous hate of their invaders, they rushed to the charge, and though the conflict was fiercer, were victorious. A vast quantity of pillage fell into their hands, together with Sir Ralph the Cofferer, a paymaster of the English army.? The second victory had barely been achieved, when the third division, under Sir Robert Neville, with all its arms and armour glittering in the morning sun, came in sight, advancing from the neighbourhood of Gilmerton, at a time when many of the Scots had laid aside a portion of their arms and helmets, and were preparing some to eat, and others to sleep. Frase; and Comyn at first thought of retiring, but that was impracticable, as Neville was so close upon, them. They flew from rank to rank, says Tytler, ?and having equipped the camp followers in the arms of their slain enemies, they made a furious charge on the English, and routed them with great slaughter.? Before the second and third encounters took place, old historians state that the Scots had recourse to the cruel practice of slaying their prisoners, which was likely enough in keeping with the spirit with which the wanton English war was conducted in those days. Sir Ralph the Cofferer begged Fraser to spare his life, offering a large ransom for it. ? Your coat of mail is no priestly habit,? replied Sir Simon. ? Where is thine alb-where thy hood ? Often have you robbed us all and done us grievous wrong, and now is our time to sum up the account, and exact strict payment.?? With these words he hewed off the gauntleted hands of the degraded priest, and then by one stroke severed his head from his body. Old English writers always attribute the glory of the day to Wallace ; but he was not present. The pursuit lasted sixteen miles, even as far as Biggar, and 12,000 of the enemy perished, says Sir James Balfour. English historians have attempted to conceal the triple defeat of their countrymen on this occasion. They state that Sir Robert Neville?s division stayed behind to hear mass, and repelled the third Scottish attack, adding that none who heard mass that morning were slain. But, unfortunately for this statement, Neville himself was among the dead ; and Langtoft, in his very minute account of the battle, admits that the English were utterly routed. Many places in the vicinity still bear names con- .
Volume 6 Page 351
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