The Oul Leid

The success of the film Braveheart has been a mixed blessing for historians. Certainly, the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1315 is better known as a result, although many have questioned its accuracy on a host of points. In Ullans 3 we published a short section of the classic Scots epic poem “The Bruce” written by Barbour in Old Scots about 1375. Much of this poem is set in Ulster, for Edward the Bruce (Robert’s brother), spent the last years of his life here, and we present below another short extract, paralleled by a loose translation in verse (this section describes the lead up to the Battle of Connor in county Antrim):

And ilke day thai get men ryde

To bring wittalis, on ser manneris

Till thame fra the toune of Coigneris,

That weill ten gret myle wes thaim fra.

Ilk day, as thai walk cum and ga,

Thai come the scottis host so ner,

That bot twa myle betuix thaim wer.

And quhen erll thomas had persaving

Of thair come and thair gaderyng,

He gat him a gud Cumpany,

Thre hundreth on hors wicht and hardy.

Thar wes schir philip the mowbray,

And schir Iohne stewart als, perfay,

With schir alane stewart alsua,

Schir gilbert boyde and other ma.

Thai raid till meit the vittelleris,

That with ther wittale fra coigneris

Com, haldand to the host the way.

So suddanly on thame schot thai,

That thai war sa abaysit all,

That thai leit all thair vapnys fall,

And mercy pitwysly can cry.

And thai tuk thame in thair mercy,

And has thame up so clenly tane,

That of thame all eschapit nane.

The Erll of thame gat wittering

That of thair host, in the evynnyng,

Wald cum out, at the woddis syde,

And aganis thair wittale ryde.

He thoucht than on a Iuperdy;

And gert his menzhe halely

Dicht thame in the presoners aray;

Thair pennownys als with thame tuk thai.

And quhill the nycht wes neir, thai baid,

And syne toward the host thai raid.

Sum of thair mekill host has seyne

Thair come, and wende weill thai had beyne

Thair vittelouris; tharfor thai raid

Agane thame scalit, for thai hade

Na dreid that thai thair fayis wer;

And thame hungerit alsua weill sair.

Tharfor thai come abandonly;

And, quhen thai neir war, in gret hy

The Erll, and all that with him war,

Ruschit on thame with wapnys bar,

And thair ensenzeis hye can cry;

And thai, that saw so sudandly

Thair fayis dyng on thame, wes rad,

That thai no hert till help thame had;

Bot to thar host the vay can ta;

And thai chasit, and feill can sla,

That all the feldis strowit war;

Ma than ane thowsand ded wes thar.

Richt to thar hoost thai can thame chass,

And syne agane thair wayis tais.

And every day some men would ride

From there to Connor town, to bring

Victuals, and every sort of thing.

The town was ten good miles away.

And as they came and went each day

They travelled near the Scottish host

And came within two miles at most.

And when earl Thomas got to know

That they were going to and fro

He took with him a goodly force

Of some three hundred men on horse.

Sir Philip the Mowbray was one,

And Stewart also went, Sir John;

Sir Alan Stewart too; with them

Sir Robert Boyd and others came.

To meet the victuallers they rode,

That came from Connor with the food

And to the encampment journeyed back

So sudden was the fierce attack

That they made no defence at all,

And let their weapons idly fall,

And cried for mercy piteously.

The Scotsmen granted them their plea,

But took them prisoner every one,

And of them all escaped there none.

The earl enquired, and heard them say

That some of the host, as waned the day,

Were wont to issue from the wood

And ride some way to meet the food.

A stratagem he thought of then,

And orders gave that all his men

Should don the prisoner’s array.

The pennons, too, with them took they.

They waited till the night almost,

And then they rode toward the host.

Some of the host saw them appear,

And thought, since they were coming near,

They brought the victuals. So they came

To meet them singly; for in them

They never thought to find their foe;

And hunger prompted them also!

Therefore they came disorderly.

And when they neared him, suddenly

The earl and all those with him there

Fell upon them with weapons bare

And cried aloud their battle cries.

The others, taken by surprise

To find themselves attacked, took fright

And had no heart to make a fight,

But fled, and hastened home again.

Full many in the chase were slain;

Their bodies covered all the field.

More than a thousand there were killed.

Right to the host the Scotsmen chased,

Then back to camp they went in haste.



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A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


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