The Oul Leid

This example of old Ulster-Scots writing is a letter written in 1627 by John Hamilton of Bangor. It was sent from the wars in Germany to Archibald Edmonstone of Ballycarry.

John Hamilton (Jhone Hammyltone) was one of four sons of William Hamilton of Bangor — whose own father had been a minister in Dunlop, Ayrshire. William and each of his four sons were styled of ‘Newcastle’ alias ‘Bangor’. In fact, County Down had numerous places called ‘Newcastle’ from time to time — including a ‘Newcastle in the Airds’ near Cloghey in the Ards peninsula.

All four of William Hamilton’s sons became army captains. James, the first son, was killed in 1646 at the Battle of Benburb, County Tyrone fighting for the Scots Covenanters under General Munro. John was the second son, who also became a captain along with Hans and William, the third and fourth sons.

Archibald Edmonstone of Red Hall, Ballycarry, was the Laird of Duntreath. The Edmonstones had originally come from Ayrshire to Greyabbey in County Down with the Montgomerys, but had moved to Antrim shortly after. In the letter, mention is made by James Hamilton of one of his ‘lieutenants’ in Germany with him. This was James Wachope from the Haw (‘Hall’) at Haw Hill, Kilmore, County Down, and another of his ‘sogers’ was ‘Wilzame Boyd, sone to Dawid Boyd in the Airdis’. This David Boyd was the same Colonel David Boyd who accompanied Sir Hugh Montgomery in his first plantation of the Ards in 1605. In 1609 Colonel David Boyd was granted the lands of Ballymacarrett from Montgomery, to add to the extensive lands throughout north Down and the Ards which he received in 1607. The 1607 grant of lands to David Boyd had several townlands around Greyabbey reserved for Archibald Edmonstone. Indeed, Edmonstone lived at Greyabbey for about seven years before moving to the lands at Ballycarry and the castle of Red Hall (Read Haw) which he acquired in 1609. David Boyd established his main dwelling at Ballycastle (formerly Castleton), near Mountstewart, in the Ards Peninsula.

Note that the mixed Scots-English nature of this letter becomes more Scots in the middle when the writer gets into his stride.

Jhone Hammyltone to Archibald Edmonstone

(Tidings of the progress of the war in Germany)

1627, December 25th

“Right honourable, Having this occasione of your servant I ame bauld to remember my deuty to yours wourthie mother, to yours saielfe and laday, with all the rest of that honorabill famely. Pleis yow, the overthraw gifing to the Deuik is marvelouse grit. Thaire is ane grit army preparing in Ingland quhairto yit not knawing. For this effeck thair is ane Parliament be in Scotland schortlie. My lieutennant, James Wachope, with many uthers offisars ar laitlie arrivit frome Germany to lewie sogers for the use of the King of Denmarck. He hes gifing Court Tily ane marvelousie grit defaiet. Tylie is army biing passit ower the river of Allfe[Alster] the King of Denmark causit in the nicht for a lontyme labour and wourk till he cuttit the rivar and maied it rin within Tyly is army quhar thaire his holl canone was drownit with a grit pairt of his army. The rest flying could not fall bot one the army of the King quhar they all for the most pairt war put to the suourd. Thus we have hard frome Dublein, sence frome Ingland, [and] now Jamis Wachope, as we ar informit, reportis the same. He hes bein this fourtnicht past at Port Patrick and cane nocht wune over, bot thaire come ane bot frome Loche Rying quharin thaire was ane mane boithe spak him saielfe and did sie Jamis Wachope. Quhat neuis I sall have you sall heir frome me as occasionis fallis out. I ame affrayid I sall nocht returne home now till Mairche, that I may carry with me all my pipill. Pleas yow, gud Sir, thaire is niver ane soger of myne athar went avay from any leutennant or deid sence thair pairteur bot ane Wilzame Boyd, sone to Dawid Boyd in the Airdis. I heir he was ane insolent youthe; he deiit of ane flux. The namis of thous ar killit and prisoners I have sent yow, bot favour me soe muche that I may have it agane quhen yow sall send any over to thir pairtis. I ame and all yours humbell trew servant, J HAMMYLTONE.”



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