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Monday, 17 February 2014

Robert the Bruce, King of Scots

With the coming commemoration of the 700th year of the Battle of Bannockburn, fought near Stirling on the 24th of June 1314, it would not be inappropriate to offer a few anecdotes about Robert the Bruce. During his fieldwork trip to Brae Lochaber at the beginning of 1951, Calum Maclean managed to collect and transcribe over 500 items from John MacDonald of Highbridge alone. It was an astonishing number but it may well be that even Maclean had not managed to collect all there was in MacDonald’s retentive memory. Of these many items, a vast majority may be termed seanchas or local lore, three of which concern Robert the Bruce (1274–1329), King of Scots. The first two historical legends were recorded on the 25th of January, 1951; and the last one, slightly earlier, on the 21st of January, 1951. All three describe Robert the Bruce’s time during his ‘wilderness’ year as a fugitive. After he had been crowned as King of Scots at Scone on 25th of March, 1305, the Bruce was defeated shortly afterwards in battle by Edward I and was forced to flee into hiding in the Hebrides and Ireland. Robert the Bruce would return in triumph in 1307 and from then on would successfully campaign against the English occupying forces by using guerrilla tactics which eventually culminated in open battle at Bannockburn, the scene of his greatest ever victory.

Am Brùsach anns an Uamhaidh

Bha airigead cinn air a chur a-mach airson Raèibeart an deadhaidh dha an Cuimeineach a mharaadh ann an Dumfries. Agus bha móran de nàmhaidean aige anns an dùthaich a bha ra-thoileach air a mharaadh gus am faigheadh iad an t-airigead. Bha e a’ falabh air turas gun leis ach dà ghille. Chunnaic iad triùir a’ dlùthadh orra agus iad a’ dèanadh air uamhaidh sònruichte a bh’ aig a’ Bhrusach. Chaidh iad a-staigh do'n uamhaidh agus lean na daoine a bha seo iad. Smaoinich am Brùs gur h-ann air son a maraadh a thàinig iad. Agus thuirst e:
“Chan ’eil sinn a’ dol a dh’ fhuireach còmhla ’s an aon cheàrn. Tha dà cheàrn anns an uamhaidh a tha seo agus gabhadh si-se ’n-ur ceann fhéin dhi agus gabhaidh sinne n-ar ceann fhìn.”
’S ann mar seo a bha.
Las iad teine is ghabh iad am beagan biadh a bh’ ac(hc)a. Agus bha iad a’ dol a chadal is iad gu math sgìth. Thuirst am Brùsach:
“Feumaidh cuid againn a bhith furachail nach tig iad a-nuas.”
Thuirst gille òg, a bha sin a bha ra-dheònach air fuireach, gu fanadh esan. Thug am Brùsach an aire gun robh e a’ tuiteam ’na chadal is thuirst e ris fhéin:
“Feuma’ mi fhìn mo shùil a chumail.” 
Agus leig e leis a ghille òg cadal agus leis an fhear eile. ’N uair a chunnaic an fheadhainn a bha shìos gun do chaidil an gille òg, dh’airich iad an t-àite cho sìtheil sàmhach. Smaointich iad gun robh iad ’nan cadal uile. Dh’èalaidh fear dhiubh a-nuas agus e a’ dol gu maraadh ’nan cadal. Thug am Brusach an aire dhà, agus cha d’fhuair e greim air claidheamh na air dad a bh’ ann, ach leum ’un an teine agus òthailt a thoirst leis. Agus spad e an duine air a’ chiad bhuille. Chaidh e an sin a sìos agus mharaabh e an dithist eile a bha ’sa’ cheann eile. Agus an uair seo thill e air ais agus thuirst e ris na laoich a bha leis:
“Faoda’ sibh cadal a-nise. Tha an fheadhainn a tha ’s a cheàrna shiòs ’nan cadal is tha mi a’ creidsinn nach duisg iad an dà latha seo.”

And a translation of the above goes something like this:

Robert the Bruce in the Cave

There was a reward sent out for Robert the Bruce after he had murdered [John] Comyn in Dumfries. He had many enemies throughout the land who would be very pleased to kill him in order to get the money. He was on a journey accompanied by only two servants. They saw three men approaching them as they made their way towards a certain cave known to the Bruce. They entered the cave and the men followed the others. The Bruce thought that they had come to murder him. And he said:
“We’re not all going to stay in the same place. There are two entrances to the cave and you take that one and we’ll take the other one.
That’s the way things were.
They lit a fire and they ate some of their food. They were going to sleep as they were quite tired, and the Bruce said:
“Some of us have to watch that they don’t come up.”
One of the young servants said that he was very willing to take a watch and that he’d stay awake. The Bruce noticed that he was falling asleep and he said to himself:
“I’ll have to keep a look out.”
And he let the young servant and the other one to their sleep. When the men down below saw that the young servant was asleep, they noticed that the place was very peaceful and quiet. They thought that they were all asleep. One of them crept up and he was going to kill them while they slept. The Bruce noticed this and though he couldn’t get a grip of his sword or anything else he leapt to the fire and took a stick out and battered the man with his first blow. He then went down and killed the other two men at the other end [of the cave]. Then he went back and said to his heroes:
“You may sleep now. The men at the other end are sleeping now and I believe they will not ever awaken.”

Raibeart Brùs agus Gillean na Cailliche

Bha Raibeart Brùs air turas agus gun duine aige ach e fhéin gu math allabanach. Agus thàinig e a staigh ’un taigh far an robh seann-chailleach. Agus thuirst e am faigheadh e fuireach.
“Chan fhaigh duine fuireach anns an taigh agam-sa,” thuirt i, “ach Righ Brùs,” thuirst i. “Gheibh esan fuireach.”
“Is mise an duine.”
“Thig a staigh,” thuirst i, “gu h-eallamh.”
Thug i a-staigh e. Bha triùir ghillean (Z71.1.) aic(hc)e agus iad ag obair air boghachan-saighead a dhèanadh.
“Theirig a-staigh ’un t-seòmbar leotha,” thuirst i, “agus cuiridh mi am biadh sìos.”
’S e seo a chaidh a dhèanadh. Thug e seòltachd agus dòigh dhaibh air na saigheadan a dhèanadh, ged a bha iad glé mhath orra roimhe sin. Agus cha robh e fada a staigh ’n uair a thainig treud mór de dhaoine. Agus chum fear dhiubh chun an taighe. Is dh’fhaighneachd e do'n bhoireannach:
“A fac(hc)aidh sibh duine a’ dol air adhart an rathad an seo?”
“Chan fhac(hc)a mi duine,” thuirst i. “Ach chunna mi móran sluaigh a’ dol air adharst agus coltas Righ ’nam measg.”
“An robh mòran sluaigh leis?”
“Bhitheadh mu cheud duine leis.”
“O, shin agad an duine a tha a dhìth oirnn.”
Is tharraing iad.
“Dé ’n-ur turas, na dé an rathad a the sibh a’ dol,” thuirst i.
Dh’innis iad de’n rathad a bha iad a’ dol. Agus an uair seo dh’innis ise do’n Bhrusach a h-uile car.
“Ma-tà,” thuirst e, tha ath-ghoirid. Gabhaidh sinne e agus bidh sinn rompa ann an oisinn chumhaing, ma gheibh mi na gillean agad còmh’ rium.”
“Gheibh a h-uile duine is nan dèanainn fhìn feum, rachainn ann cuideachd.”
Is dh’fhalabh iad agus ghabh iad an rathad goirid seòlta a bh’ aig Brùs. Agus bha coille ann. Chaidh iad a-staigh do’n choille.
“Fanaibh sàmhach. Tha iad a’ tighinn,” thuirst am Brùsach. “Is na tiligibh idir orra a’s an toiseach, ach cumaibh riutha ’nan deireadh. Agus tha an t-saighead cho sàmhach is an fheadhainn a th’ air thoiseach, chan fhaic(hc) iad an fheadhainn a tha air deireadh a’ tuiteam. Is mun toir iad an aire, cha mhór a bhios ann dhiubh.”  
’S ann mar seo a bha.
Thàinig iad a-staigh an rathad cumhann a bha seo is thòisich iad air tiligeil orra an dheadhaidh. Agus bha iad a’ tuiteam cho dlùth. Agus mun d’fhuair an fheadhainn a bha air thoiseach coimhead air ais, cha robh iad comasach air sin a dhèanadh. Thuit iad a-measg chàich is cha d’fhàg iad a h-aon beò dhiubh.

And a translation of the above goes something like this:

Robert the Bruce and the Old Woman’s Sons

Robert the Bruce was on a journey and he was all alone and he was quite lost. He came to house in which an old woman lived. He asked if he could stay.
“No one can stay in my house,” she replied, “but King [Robert the] Bruce himself. He could stay.”
“Im that man.”
“Quickly, come in,” she said.
She took him. She had three sons (Z71.1.) who were making bows.
“Go into their room,” she said, “and I’ll take some food down.”
This was done. He showed them a better way of making arrows even though they had been pretty good at that previously. He had not been long in when a great drove of men arrived. And one of them was sent to the house. He asked the woman:
“Have you seen a man going by this way?”
“I’ve not seen anyone,” she replied. “But I’ve seen many people going by and one of them looked like a king.”
“Where there many other men accompanying him?”
“There would’ve been around a hundred men.”
“That’s the very man we’re after.”
They set off.
“Which way are young going?” she asked.
They told her the way they were gong. And she then told the Bruce everything.
“There’s a short cut we’ll take and we’ll be there before them in a narrow pass, if I can have your sons to come with me.”
“You’ll get every one of them and if I could be of any use, then I’d come along too.”
And they set off and they took the short cut that the Bruce knew. There was a wood and they entered it.
“Keep quiet. They’re coming,” said the Bruce. “Don’t shoot those at the front but wait until the rear. The arrow is so quiet that those at the front will not see those at the back falling. And before they notice, there will not be so many of them left.”
That is how things turned out.
They came along this narrow road and they began shooting them. And they fell so close to one another that before those at the front could look back it was impossible for them to do so. They fell among the rest and not one of them was left alive.

Raibeart Brùs agus na Cruidhean

’S iomadh càs agus cruas, mar a tha fios aig a h-uile duine, a thàinig air Raibeart ’n uair a bha e ’na Rìgh air a chrùn. Bha iad ’ga ruagadh thall is a-bhos agus iad toileach fhaotainn agus a ghlac(hc)adh. Agus bha airigead cinn a-mach airson a ghlac(hc)adh. Ach cha deach a ghlac(hc)adh riamh an duine còir agus ’s mór am beud gun rachadh. Agus bha iad glé dhlùth air a ghlac(hc)adh Agus fhuair e ainimhidh bho neach anns an àite. Agus thuirst e ris:
“Innsidh mi mar a nì thu agus tha ùine agad air sin a dhèanadh. Bheir thu na cruidhean dheth agus tionnainnidh tu an rathad eile air an each iad. Agus mar sin ’s ann an rathad eile a bhios iad a’ dol agus cum thusa romhad (K534.1.).”
Agus ’s ann mar seo a bha.
Thàinig iad dlùth air an àite ’s an robh e gun teagamh. Agus chunnaic iad an uair seo gun do thionnainn e, mar a bha am beachd ac(hc)a ’n uair a chaidh na cruidhean a thionndanadh air an each, agus gur h-ann a’ tilleadh an rathad eile a bha e a’ dol. Ach aig an aon àm ’s ann a bha am Brùs a’ cumail roimhe agus na luirig a bh’ air an talamh a’ sealltuinn gun robh an t-each a’ dol an rathad eile (K500.). Agus fhuair e mar sin cuidhte is iad. Agus sin agad fear de na turasan air an robh e air a shàbhaladh

And, finally, a translation of the above goes something like this:

King Robert the Bruce and the Horseshoes

As everyone knows King Robert the Bruce suffered great hardship and deprivation. They pursued him here and there for they wished to capture him. There was a reward out to capture him. But they never caught him and it would’ve been a great pity if they had. They came very close indeed to capturing him. He received a horse from someone in the district. He said to him:
“I’ll tell you what do and you’ve enough time in order to do it. You’ll take the horseshoes off and you’ll turn them the other way round. And so they’ll go the other way and you keep going on [with the work] (K534.1.).
And that is how things turned out.
They came near to the place where he was. And when they saw this that it had turned, as they thought, when the horseshoes had been turned the other way round, and so he was going the other way. At the very same time the Bruce kept on going and the footprints left on the ground looked as it the horse was going the other way (K500.). He got rid of them. And there you have one of the ways in which he was saved.

Obviously there are a number of folklore motifs that may have been grafted onto these historical anecdotes but they may yet contain some elements of a true historical narrative.
  
References:
SSS NB 6, pp. 578–80
SSS NB 6, pp. 581–83
SSS NB 8, pp. 700–01

Image:
Statue of King Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. First unveiled in 1964, the sculptor Charles d’Orville Pilington Jackson (1887–1973) designed the statue and used measurements of the Bruce’s skull rediscovered at Dunfermline Abbey in 1818 to model his work on.

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