When Ireland was ruled by a Scottish King

During the early years of King John's reign (he was the son of King Henry) trouble was widespread throughout Ireland. In the end he decided that there was nothing for it but to go to this troublesome country himself and straighten things out. He gathered a strong army and headed for Cook in Co Waterford in May 1210. When he landed he made sure that his men with colours flying and in full battle order made an impression on the people of Waterford.

This, he hoped would let the Irish see the power of his forces and how little use there would be in opposing them. From the beginning things quietened down and it appeared as if his plan was working. Satisfied that he had made the impression that he had intended he now turned his attention to reorganising the administration of government. He divided these parts of Ireland under English rule into twelve counties. These were Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Louth, Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary.

Two months later John returned to England and things remained quiet in Ireland for the rest of his reign. When John died in 1216, trouble again arose throughout the country involving both Irish and Norman chiefs. Havoc and ruin again embraced the country as chiefs the banner of the Scottish King, Robert Bruce, The King of England at this time was Edward II and he had assembled a great army to move north and finish the Scottish throne in England's side for all time. Edward headed into the Border country and after a few slight skirmishes found the going easy enough. Then he came to the heather covered glen of Bannockburn in the years 1314 and his army came to an abrupt halt.

At first sight the glen looked deserted an uncanny silence filled the air. The Army moved forward a short distance when suddenly the ground appeared to have opened and thousands of Scottish clansmen appeared to rise out of the ground or the heather, their steel flashing in the sunshine. Then they were in among the British with silver sabres and swords now turning red with blood.

The battle was fierce while it lasted with no quarter asked or given. Although retreating slowly and having been taken by surprise the British were putting up a brave fight. Then a fresh burst of cheering came from the Scottish troops and they started waiving toward the slope behind them and to the horror of the English forces they saw thousands of Scottish sweeping down into the valley.

Realising that they were hopelessly outnumbered the retreat was sounded and the British began to withdraw from the fight. This was the occasion in the song 'The Flower of Scotland' when the lines 'We brought a halt to brave Edwards army and sent him homewards to think again'. The story goes that most of the Scottish coming down the hill were not real reinforcement but a lot of army followers who were coming to see what they could get from the dead of both sides after the battle.

Now we return to the state of affairs in our own country. When they heard of the great victory of Robert Bruce over the English at Bannockburn some Ulster chieftains sent messengers to him asking him to send his brother Edward, to be King of Ireland.

Edward Bruce, who had a reputation of being a cruel and unforgiving man, was only too willing to take up the offer and landed at Larne on May 25, 1315, with an army of 6,000 soldiers. Some of the Ulster chiefs joined him and they moved south destroying all before them. Edward Bruce's orders were simple, the army to take what they needed, everything else to be burned. This order was strictly adhered to and as a result they burned Dundalk and Ardee in County Louth, setting fire to the Carmelite monastery in Ardee despite that they were after being told that a large number of people had taken refuge there. They were all burned to death.

From the word go the campaign had been carried on with great cruelty regards killing innocent people and burning their homes, often fastening them inside before setting the place on fire.
One of the most powerful Anglo-Irish noblemen of the time was Richard de Burgo, known as the Red of Ulster and part of Connacht. He now organised a large army and set out at their head to attack the invaders.

There was little difference in the tactics in the progress of the two armies. De Burgo had ordered his forces to do the same as Bruce, destroyed everything in their path because a lot of the Irish were supporting the Scottish leader. When his army eventually met up with Bruce at Connor, near Ballymena, the Scots had a resounding victory, and De Burgo was lucky to get away and flee for his life back to Connacht. Having had further victories at Kells and Ardscull in Leinster Bruce then returned to Dundalk where he had himself crowned King of Ireland at Faughart on May 1, 1316.

The Irish chieftains continued to do battle among themselves and Felim O'Connor of Connacht raised a large army and made an effort to drive all the Norman lords out of Ireland. He met the forces of De Burgo and Richard Bermingham at Athenry in 1316. Not alone was he badly beaten but he was killed in the battle.

Over 11,000 of his forces were left dead on the field including almost all the nobility of the province.
In 1317 King Robert Bruce joined his brother in Ireland and together they marched on Dublin again destroying everything in their path. They camped at Castleknock, just outside Dublin, before attacking the city. Dublin had been a peaceful city for the past number of years and the city walls and other defensive positions were in bad repair. Yet the authorities decided to do all they could to defend the city.

Anything that might hinder the defence was removed, gaps were filled and the bridge over the Liffey was also removed. The Mayor ordered that the straggling suburbs be burned down. The fire got out of control and four-fifths of the suburbs and a part of Christchurch Cathedral were destroyed before it was quenched. However the plan had worked, because the Scottish were so impressed but the determination of the defenders that they gave up the siege.

The Scottish then moved to Limerick but were again unable to take the city and turned northward once again. They lost thousands of men on the march through cold, hunger and sickness. Robert Bruce returned to Scotland but Edward remained. He decided to go south again but was met by a strong army under Sir John de Bermingham near Dundalk.

Instead of waiting for reinforcements he attacked and was defeated. During the battle an Anglo-Irish knight by the name of Sir John Maupus killed Bruce but was himself cut down shortly after. This was the end of Scottish rule in Ireland and was to eventually lead to a lessening of English rule for some time.

Courtesy of Willie White and the Carlow Nationalist