Monday, June 23, 2014

The Battle of Bannockburn, 700 years ago today

Led by Ayrshire-born Robert the Brus, the Scottish army triumphed at the two day battle, fought at Bannockburn near Stirling on 23 & 24 June 1314. The following April, Bruce held a Parliament at St John's Church in Ayr (the surviving tower - much like Helen's Tower at Crawfordsburn and therefore also of course the Thiepval Tower in France - is pictured below). One of the function of the Parliament was to approve the Bannockburn army to set sail, under the command of Robert's only surviving brother, Edward Bruce. This Scottish armada sailed from Ayr seafront to Larne Lough on 25 May 1315, with 6,000 men, to join forces with the Bruce's relatives, the O'Neills.

18 months later Robert came across, bringing a further 7,000 men. It was the descendants of these Bruce-supporting clans who would permanently settle in Ulster in the early 1600s and beyond, as demonstrated again recently by this DNA study by Strathclyde University.

The Bruce story is important to Ulster-Scots, and to the history of Ireland generally. The epic poem by John Barbour, a rare copy of which has recently been restored, tells of many of Edward Bruce's escapades in Ireland. This coming weekend sees the first of a series of major historical commemorations in Scotland. Will we do likewise here in 2015?...


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