Friday, May 25, 2012

697 years ago today...

(image from this website)

... on 25 May 1315 Edward Bruce, the younger brother of King Robert the Bruce, sailed from Ayr with a huge armada of 300 ships and with 6000 men. They landed on the County Antrim coast at numerous locations stretching from Glenarm to Larne Lough. Their purpose was to fulfil an invitation which had been extended to Edward by 12 Gaelic chieftains and the rogue Anglo-Norman DeLacys - to become King of Ireland and to drive out the Anglo-Norman 'Englishry' establishment.

Thanks to the victory at Bannockburn in 1314, Robert was now the undisputed King of an independent Scotland. So in 1315, Edward would also become a King. Just days after the arrival in Ulster, his 6000 Bannockburn-hardened men famously defeated 20,000 Anglo-Normans in a huge battle near Raloo. A few weeks later Edward was 'crowned' at Carrickfergus Castle*... and so began a 3 year campaign. Robert came across to help on a number of occasions. Ultimately, the Bruces' campaign failed.

With all of the talk about 'centenaries' in Northern Ireland this year and over the next few years (Titanic / Covenant / Easter Rising / Somme etc.) two earlier cultural centenaries have been overlooked:

• 2013 will be the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Edward Brice, the first Presbyterian minister in Ireland, to Ballycarry in County Antrim

• 2015 the 700th anniversary of his ancestral kinsman Edward Bruce, at the same part of County Antrim.

Exhibition display at Edinburgh Castle of the coronation of Robert the Bruce

From the entrance of Edinburgh Castle

* over the years some have claimed Dundalk as the location of Edward's crowning. He was certainly killed near there in 1318 and a gravestone at Faughart bears his name. Scholarly opinion these days is that Carrickfergus was where he was crowned