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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. VI


Leith.] SIR ANDREW WOOD. 199 CHAPTER XXI. LEITH-HISTORICAL SURVEY (ronfinaed). A Scottish Navy-Old Fighting Mariners of Leith-Sir Andrew Woodand the YdZm CaravrZ-J.~es 111. skin-James IV. and Su- Andrew-Double Defeat of the English Ships-John, Kobert, and Andrew Barton-Their Letten of Marque against the Portugu- Jarnes IV. and his Sailors-A Naval Review. AND now, before giving the history of more modern Leith, we must refer to some of her brave old fighting merchant mariners, who made her famous in other years. ?As the subject of the Scottish navy,? says Pinkerton, ? forms a subject but little known, any anecdotes concerning it become interesting ;1? and, fortunately for our purpose, most of these have some reference to the zncient port of Leith. Though the foymation of a Scottish navy was among the last thoughts of the great king Robert Bruce, when, worn with war and years, he lay dying in the castle of Cardross, it was not until the reigns of James 111. and IV. that Scotland possessed any ships for purely warlike purposes. Nevertheless, she was rich in hardy mariners and enterprising merchants ; and an Act of Parliament during the reign of the latter monarch refers to ? the great and innumerable riches yat is tint in fault of shippis and busses,? or boats to be employed in the fisheries. In 1497 an enactment was made that vessels of twenty tons and upwards should be built in all the seaports of the kingdom, while the magistrates were directed to compel all stout vagrants who frequented such places to learn the trade of mariners, and labour for their own living. Among the merchants and the private traders James IV. found many men of ability, bravery, and experience, such as Sir Andrew Wood of Largo, the two Bartons (John and Robert), Sir Alexander Mathieson, William Meremonth, all merchants of Leith; and Sir David Falconer, of Borrowstounness. Williarn Brownhill, who never saw an English ship, either in peace or war, without attacking and taking her if he was able, and various other naval adventurers of less note were sought out by James 111. and treated with peculiar favour and distinction. But it was in the reign of his father that Sir Andrew Wood, who has been called the ? Scottish Nelson ? of his day, made his name in history, and to him we shall first refer. Under that unfortunate monarch Scotland?s commerce was beginning to flourish, notwithstanding the restraint so curiously laid upon maritime enterprise by the Act that restricted sailing from St Jude?s Day till Candlemas, under a penalty; and in 1476 R?e read of the ?? great ship ? of James Kennedy, which Buchanan states ? to have been the largest that ever sailed the ocean,? but was wrecked upon. the coast of England and destroyed by the people. During the reign of James III., the fighting merchant of Leith, Sir Andrew Wood, bore the terror of his name through English, Dutch, and Flemish waters, and in two pitched battles defeated the superior power of England at sea. As he was the first of his race whose name obtained eminence, nothing is known of his family, and even much of his personal history is buried in obscurity. Dr. Abercrombie, in his ? Martial Achievements,? supposes him to have been a cadet of the Bonnington family in Angus, and he is generally stated to have been born about the middle of the fifteenth century at the old Kirktoun of Largo, situated on the beautiful bay of the same name. Wood appears to have been during the early part of the reign of James 111. a wealthy merchant in Leith, where at first he possessed and commanded two armed vessels of some 300 tons each, the- YeZZow CaraveZ and FZlmer, good and strong ships, superior in equipment to any that had been seen in* Scotland before, so excellent were his mariners, their arms, cannon, and armour. According to a foot-note in Scott of Scotstarvit?s work, ?he had been first a skipper at the north side of the bridge of Leith, and being pursued, mortified his house to Paul?s Work (in Leith Wynd) as the register beats.? It would appear that the vessel called the YelZow CuraveZ was formerly commanded by his friend! John Barton (of whom more elsewhere), as in the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer the following note occurs by the editor :- ?( In March 1473-4 the accounts contain a notice of a ship which a cancelled entry enables us to identify with the King?s Yellow Carad, afterwards rendered famous under the command of Sir Andrews Wood in naval engagements with the English.? The editor a!so states that in the ?? Account of the Chamberlain of Fife? he had found another entry concerning 3 delivery to John Barton, master of the King?s CurnveZ, under date 1475. ? This last entry,? says an annotator, ?? being deleted, however shows that there must have been some mistake as to whom the corn was delivered, John Barton being probably sailing one of his own ships. During
Volume 6 Page 199
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