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Roslin's Battle part two
Segrave snuck across the Scot's border at dead of night at the head of
30,000 men. He avoided detection until reaching Melrose in the middle of
February 1303. He had divided his force into three.
One division, led by Sir Robert Neville, was to take Borthwick castle,
which was in the hands of Sir Gilbert Hay, a friend and ally of Henry St.
Clair. 10,000 men commanded by Sir Ralph Confrey, were to proceed to
Dalhousie and protect Lady Margaret's residence. What men will do for a
woman? Segrave and the English paymaster Ralph de Manton commanded the
10,000 men that were to advance upon Henry St Clair's seat, Rosslyn.
The Cistercian Prior Abernethy of Mount Lothian to the west of Balantradoch,
the Templar headquarters in Scotland, close by Rosslyn heard of the English
progress. Abernethy, the monk, had been a Templar, a warrior, who had off
his armour and lay down his sword to spend the remainder of his life
praising God. Now the warrior priest's blood rose again. The life of prayer,
compilation of Gregorian chants was abandoned. God had called the Prior to
the defence of Scotland. As men prepare for battle each pray to whatever God
he knows "let us be victorious." Monks on horseback were sent to raise the
alarm and warn the Scots of the danger facing them. Sir John Comyn was found
near Glasgow, Sir William Wallace near Paisley, Sir Symon Fraser at
Neidpath, and Somerfield of Carnwarth, Simon of the Lee, Flemming of
Cumbernauld and the Knights of the Hospital at Torphichen were all alerted,
along with Sir Henry St. Clair. The Scots mustered hastily at Biggar by the
night of 23 February, assembling a force of 8,000 men, not soldiers but
tinkers, tailors, farmers all common men who had to face 30,000 well trained
English troops, the closest thing that Europe had to a professional army.
Wallace was offered the command. He refused for his failure at the Battle
of Falkirk weighed heavy on his confidence. Wallace suggested Sir Symon
Fraser. Fraser was selected. The Monk turned warrior Abernethy's knowledge o
f the local area and Wallace's tactical ability were called on. Sir John
Comyn, Guardian of the Realm assumed overall command. They moved to 16
kilometres north of Roslin Glen to Carlops village. Abernethy said Mass.
His monks fed the troops.
Under the cover of night the Prior guided the army closer to the approaching
first detachment of Segrave's divided command. 3,000 men under Comyn's
command hid themselves in the wood to the west of the English camp while
Fraser led the remaining 5,000 around them to close in from the east. In the
dark the Scots fell upon the English while they slept. Those English who
were not killed were driven into the forest, where they met Comyn's force.
Segrave threw himself upon Wallace's mercy to prevent his men's
extermination. The pale winter sun rose on the 24th to witness the stench,
blood and gore of battle joined scattered across Roslin Glen. The Scots had
won this first engagement almost without cost to themselves; the women and
servants of Sir Henry St Clair tended the few wounded Scots on the grounds
of Roslin castle. Henry emptied his larder to furnish a hasty meal to the
troops, determined patriots on the grounds of one of the holiest sites in
Scotland. Wallace, Comyn, Fraser and St Clair led from the front.
"Hark where the night is falling
hark hear the pipes a calling
Loudly and proudly calling down thru the glen
There where the hills are sleeping
Now feel the blood a leaping
High as the spirits of the old highland men"
Scotland the Brave
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