Battles in Aberdeenshire
Battle of Lumphanan
inspiration, this is where King
Macbeth fought his last battle.
Malcolm, son of
Duncan (whom Macbeth had killed to claim the throne) sought revenge and, with the
support of the
Earl Siward (Sigurd) of Northumbria, Macbeth was killed and soon (Lulach in between)
Malcolm became King. Three miles north west of Torphins and 27 miles west of
Macbeth was a King of the Scots whose rule was marked by efficient government
and the promotion of Christianity, but who is best known as the murderer and
usurper in William Shakespeare's tragedy.
Shakespeare's Macbeth bears little resemblance to the real 11th century Scottish
king. Mac Bethad mac Findláich, known
in English as Macbeth, was born in around 1005. His father was Finlay, Mormaer
of Moray, and his mother may have been Donada, 2nd daughter of Malcolm II. A
'mormaer' was literally a high steward of one of the ancient Celtic provinces of
Scotland, but in Latin documents the word is usually translated as 'comes',
which means Earl.
In August 1040, he killed the ruling
King, Duncan I, in battle near Elgin, Morayshire. Macbeth became
His marriage to Kenneth III's granddaughter Gruoch strengthened his claim to the
throne. In 1045, Macbeth defeated and killed Duncan I's father
Dunkeld. For 14 years, Macbeth seems to have ruled equably, imposing law and
order and encouraging Christianity. In 1050, he is known to have travelled to
Rome for a Papal Jubilee. He was also a brave leader and made successful forays
over the border into Northumbria, England. In 1054, Macbeth was
challenged by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who was attempting to return
son Malcolm Canmore, who was his nephew, to the throne. On 15th August 1057,
Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire by Malcolm Canmore (later
According to tradition, the battle took place near the
Peel of Lumphanan.
some 300 metres (980 ft) south-west of the peel, is said to be the stone upon
which Macbeth was beheaded.
Battle of Mondynes
The son of King
was sent to the English Court of
William the Conqueror
as a guarantee that Malcolm would not attack England. When Malcolm died his
seized the throne, but with English support Duncan deposed his uncle. However
only 6 months later
was killed at the Battle of
by an army led by his own half brothers
Edmund and Donald.
He was buried at Dunfermline Abbey.
Mondynes is 20 miles south of Aberdeen.
Scottish Wars of Independence
Until the 12th Century, Aberdeen had been a harbour settlement, but at this
point the city became a Royal Burgh and the centre moved to
the death of Alexander III in
1286, the issue of succession to the Scottish
throne created rifts between north and south. There were two main rivals for the
John Balliol and Robert The Bruce. Balliol was the choice of
of England, but the Bruce refused to accept his decision. Balliol broke his
allegiance to Edward and allied with France. In the ensuing battle, Robert the
Bruce sided with England, Balliol was defeated, and Edward gained control over
Scotland. Robert the Bruce then had himself declared
King of Scotland
and fought to regain control of his country, which he managed in
with a decisive
Battle of Bannockburn.
Seige of Aberdeen
1298, the town was garrisoned by the
English; but about ten years after,
the citizens took possession of the Castle, and massacred the garrison; having
taken part with Bruce, who, in testimony of their patriotic exertions, granted
them permission to bear as the arms of the town,
"gules, three towers triple towered, within a double tressure counterflowered
argent, supported by two leopards proper, the motto in a scroll above 'bon
accord,' " (that having been the watchword on the night
when they rose against the English); and soon after he confirmed and extended
the privileges formerly possessed by the citizens.
Aberdeen had a part to play in his victory during the
Wars of Independence.
1306, the castle was garrisoned by
but Aberdonians stormed it in a night-time raid, using 'Bon Accord' as a
password. 'Bon Accord' is now the city's motto, appearing on the City Coat of
Arms. At the time, Aberdeen was rewarded by a gift of land from King
Robert the Bruce,
which even now is referred to as the
but they were punished in
stormed the city, destroying much of it.
The artwork depicts the
wooden Castle on Castle Hill with Heading Hill to the right. The valley between
became Park Lane then Commerce Street, The Futtie Port is shown with the
futtie wynd looping down the foot of Castle Hill to the Shorelands (destined to
be Virginia Street)
It is thought the
Castle and fortifications were burned down by
King Robert The Bruce in
June 1308, during the Wars
of Scottish Independence immediately
following the Harrying
Bruce and his men laid siege to the Castle before massacring the
Garrison to prevent its use by
English troops. It is said the
Scots showed no mercy "slew every man who fell into their hands.
indeed had already set the example of executing his prisoners, and it was not to
be expected that the other side would fail to follow the same course"
10 July 1308,
English ships left
to help the English garrison. However
August 1308, Gilbert Pecche and the last troops had all been forced out of
the City. Following
the destruction of Aberdeen Castle, Bruce marched his men to capture the Castle
Legend tells that the city's motto,
Bon Accord came from
the password used to initiate Bruce's final push and destruction of the Castle.
Sacking of Aberdeen 21-22nd July
Edward III announces that as soon as the truces expire he will
once again invade Scotland in great numbers,
Henry of Lancaster, son of the Earl of Lancaster to command. He leaves in
for the north, with a small force of 500 men-at-arms and more than 600 infantry.
Edward, having added some 400 men to his forces
from Henry of Lancaster's troops, leaves
and relieves the siege of
Lochindorb, where the Countess of Atholl and her forces are down to their last
quarter of rye. He then proceeds to destroy every bit of livestock he can find.
Edward reaches the
Moray Firth, and begins to pillage the area. The food stores
was burned, and while
famous church was let stand, nothing else around it was. He also burns the crops
as far inland as he can reach. Edward and his troops reach
descending on the city from the North. Edward and his troops spend the day
burning the town, and demolishing what cannot be burned.
Edward soon returned to England, while the Scots, under
Andrew Murray, Guardian of Scotland, captures and destroyed the
English strongholds of
Dunnotar, Kynnef and Lauriston, and carried on a harsh
campaign of destruction in his own territories, ravaging
Gowrie, Angus and Mearns, seeking to make them uninhabitable by the English.
had ravaged a great part of the north country, he desolated
on his way south, and burned
killing a great number of the citizens, It would be out of place here to enter
into any lengthened defence of the historian Boece; but it seems necessary to
notice that sometimes mistakes are imputed to him without reason, as in the
present instance; Mr Thom in his History of Aberdeen, says, "Hector Boece
sent ships to Aberdeen, anno
from which a party landed and burnt the town for 6 days; but this must be a
mistake:" there is, however, no mention of this expedition in Boece's history.
Considerable confusion prevails in the statements on this subject, some alleging
(apparently on the authority of an incorrect expression in Froissart, where he
says that, in
Edward entered Scotland, ("qu'il foula gravement toute la
plaine d'Escosse, et ardit et exillat moult de villes privées de fosses et de
palis;—et coururent ses gens tout le pays jusques à Saint Jehanstone et jusques
à Abredane;") that the town was burnt in
as well as in
and that on one or the other of these occasions, (for it is differently stated)
the fire raged for 6 days. There does not seem, however, to be any good evidence
for more than
and it is by no means likely that the town was then of such extent as to require
6 days for its consumption, though possibly the work of destruction by Edward's
soldiers may have been carried on for that length of time. In revenge,
apparently, for the death of
Sir Thomas Roslyne,
who had fallen in an attack on the town the year before. The town was within a
few years rebuilt, and seems at this time to have received the designation of
not in contradistinction to the
Kirktown of Seaton,
which is now called
but simply because it was then a newly built town. It seems certain that
was a town of some note long before
was any thing more than a hamlet with a church.
Battle of Harlaw (Scottish Gaelic: Cath
Gairbheach) was a Scottish clan battle fought on
24 July 1411
just north of
in Aberdeenshire. It was one of a series of battles
fought during the Middle Ages between the Barons of northeast Scotland against
those from the west coast.
The battle was fought to resolve
competing claims to the
Earldom of Ross, a large region of northern Scotland.
The Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, had taken control of the earldom as
guardian of his niece Euphemia Leslie. This claim was contested by
Of the Isles, who had married Euphemia's aunt
Mariota. Donald invaded
the intention of seizing the Earldom by force.
First he defeated a force of
Dingwall. He captured
the castle and then advanced on
with 10,000 clansmen.
Donald's advance was met 2 miles past Inverurie at
by the townspeople
of Aberdeen lead by
Sir Robert Davidson, Lord Provost of Aberdeen along with a
Keiths, Forbes', Leslies
Irvines, led by the
Earl of Mar.
Near Inverurie he was met by 1,000-2,000 of the local gentry, many in armour,
hastily assembled by the
Earl of Mar.
After a day of fierce fighting there was no clear victor; Donald had lost 900
men before retreating back to the Western Isles, and Mar had lost 500. The
latter could claim a strategic victory in that
was saved, and within a year
had recaptured Ross and forced
surrender. However Mariota was awarded the
Earldom of Ross
Lords of the Isles
would keep the title for much of the 15th century.
The ferocity of Harlaw gave it the nickname "Red Harlaw". It
is remembered by a 40 feet (12.2 m) memorial on the Battlefield, the Chapel of
Garioch, and by ballads and music.
Among the casualties were
Hector Maclean of Duart, Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum
and Provost Davidson
of Aberdeen. Davidson’s name is the product of more legend.
Legend has it that he rode out from Aberdeen heading “a citizen army”; the
actuality is that he headed some 3 dozen merchants anxious to protect their
Donald, Lord of the Isles, made an inroad on the country to the west of
Aberdeen, and advanced with the purpose of pillaging the town; but the Earl of
Mar having collected forces in the low country, opposed his progress, and on the
24th of July a Battle was fought at Harlaw, a place about 20 miles from
Aberdeen, in which both parties sustained considerable loss, and neither could
claim the victory. Among those who fell on the side of the Earl of Mar was
Sir Robert Davidson, the Provost of Aberdeen, who joined him at the head
of a band of citizens. His body was brought to the town and entombed in the
Church of St Nicholas, where its remains were discovered when the Church
became ruinous about the year 1740. In consequence of the death, in this
manner, of Provost Davidson, it is said that an Act of the Town Council was soon
after passed, prohibiting the chief magistrate from quitting the town in
his official character; but Mr Kennedy, though he mentions this, and though he
refers constantly to the Council records, does not quote any authority for the
statement, or been able to find any notice of such an act in the Council
kilted army came down from the Highlands more like a party of marauders rather
than a polished force - little did it matter, since their size was reported to
be 10,000 men.
They descended to
near the Don, in Aberdeenshire. This hill, a sort of bastion of the
Grampians abutting into the Lowlands, has a vantage point over the entire
countryside. Arriving at
which was flat moor edging up to the rise of the hill, the Highlanders met those
who had come to Guard the entrance to the low country. The Highland charge
met a compact body of men-at-arms and spearmen who held their own firmly.
Wave after wave crashed against the spearmen, with heavy damage on both sides.
A knight in armour-Sir Gilbert de Greenlaw, who fell at
the Battle of Harlaw (1411) has an incised slab at
Kinkell Church nr
Inverurie - Donside.
Provost Davidson’s broadsword and the Weavers’ Banner said to have been carried
at the Battle of Harlaw, 24 July 1411.
A recently published sermon from a
church minister in the P&J claiming that the Battle of Harlaw was the
turning point in the fortunes of the Gaelic culture and language and that the
Lordship of the Isles was pivotal in Scottish History, being a veritable
crucible of the nations soul. He tells of their tremendous energy in founding
and and supporting the monastic communities and of their devotion to the culture
of this country.
The great event which took place in
1411 at no great distance from the site of the Battle of Barra. It
was really a conflict between Celt and Saxon, and was a despairing effort
on the part of the dispossessed native population to re-establish themselves in
the Lowlands. The Highlanders were led by Donald of the Isles, who
gathering the Clansmen of the northern Hebrides, Ross and Lochaber, and sweeping
through Moray and Strathbogie, arrived at the Garioch on his way to
Aberdeen. The Burghers placed themselves under the leadership of the Earl of
Mar (Alexander Stewart, son of the Wolf of Badenoch), a soldier who had seen
much service in various parts of the world. The Povost of the City, Robert
Davidson, led forth a body of his fellow-citizens and joined Mar's
forces at Inverurie, within 3 miles of the Highlanders' camp. The 2
forces were unequally matched Donald having 10,000 men and Mar
only a 10th of that number, but of these many were mail-clad Knights on
horseback and armed with spears. It was a fiercely contested Battle and lasted
till the darkness of a July night. The slaughter on both sides was great, but
the tide of barbarism was driven back. The Highlanders retreated whence they
came and the county of Aberdeen was saved from the imminent peril of a Celtic
recrudescence. This is the only really memorable Battle associated with
Aberdeenshire soil. Its "red" field, on which so many prominent citizens shed
their life-blood (Provost Davidson and Sir Alexander Irvine of
Drum being of the number), was long remembered as a dreary and costly victory.
The inauguration of the
that the Town Council of Aberdeen have erected on the historic field of Harlaw,
near Inverurie, in memory of
and the Burgesses of Bon Accord, who fell in the Battle fought there on July 24,
1411. took place on Friday. The Memorial, which has been erected near the site
Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum
fell, is a hexagonal tower, about 45ft in height, and 13ft in diameter at the
base. Built of rough granite stone, largely composed of boulders obtained near
the site, the Monument, bears several inscriptions. The designer is
Mr. William Kelly,
architect, A.R.S.A., Aberdeen. [Building News 31 July
Aberdeen was the scene of a bloody affray, caused by Seton of Meldrum, Leslie
of Wardhouse, and Leslie of Balquhain, who entered the town on the night of
the 1st October with a number of armed followers, and attacked the
citizens, 80 of whom were killed and wounded; but the assailants were
repulsed, and the Town forthwith put into a state of Defence.
Battle of Corrichie
Another battle of much less
significance was that of Corrichie, fought in Queen Mary's reign
in 1562 on the eastern slope of the Hill of Fare, not far from
Banchory. It was a contest between James Stewart (the Regent Murray, and
half-brother of the Queen) and the Earl of Huntly. Huntly was defeated and
slain, and his son, Sir John Gordon, who was taken prisoner, was afterwards
executed at Aberdeen. Queen Mary, it is said, was a spectator both of the
Battle and of the Executions.
When the Earl
of Huntly rebelled against Queen Mary, and the Battle of Corrichie
was fought, in 1562, the town seems to have been equally in terror of
both parties, but the occupation of the place by the Royal army
immediately before the battle, and the defeat of the rebels, decided the
question, and the Queen's Army was joyfully received on its return with
the prisoners, and the town was at that time the place of the Queen's
residence for nearly three months.
Earl Marischal Hall, previously a
religious property, was the Earle's town house. It was evidently the most imposing
mansion in Aberdeen in the Middle Ages. Being a quadrangular building enclosing
a courtyard, presenting a tower to the Castlegate, with a large garden extending
southwards to roughly the line of Virginia Street, then the Harbour Line. From a
window in this building Mary Queen of Scots is said to have witnessed 'not
without tears' the execution of Sir John Gordon, son of the Earl of Huntly,
thought by many to be her lover, on the steps of the tollbooth opposite, after
he was defeated and captured at the Battle of Corriche in 1562. 'Old
Blackfriars' is built on very ancient foundations and the basement is
possibly the remains of the old church, which stretched over the top of
Marischal Street. The town paid £800 for the Earl of Marischal Hall and around
1650 demolished it and created Marischal Street.
led his clansmen under Lord James Stuart 1st Earl of Murray in support of
Mary Queen of Scots
in Autumn 1562 against her first cousin,
4th Earl of Huntly
at the Battle of Corrichie. The Earl's army was easily defeated, and Huntly was
found dead on the field, reportedly smothered in his armour. Eighteen miles west
of Aberdeen and five miles north of Banchory.
Corrichie, a long flat hill from
15 to 18 miles west of Aberdeen, was
Huntly's forces met the Queen's. The Earl's army, which had diminished in
size, due to many factors, was easily defeated.
was found dead on the field, reportedly smothered in his armour
gross, corpulent, and short of breath.
Sir John Gordon,
who was also captured was executed the following day.
As a result of Donald's loyalty to the Royal cause
in this victory, the Cameron lands which had been forfeited with those of Huntly
(who was Donald's superior) were restored.
The Battle of Corrichie was fought October 28, 1562, in a little hollow on the south side of
the Hill of Fare, seventeen miles from Aberdeen. The Marquis of Huntly lost his
life in it, and four days after his second son, Sir John Gordon, "the Queen's
love," was executed in Aberdeen. His head was afterwards exhibited on a spike
stuck on the top of the Justice Port.
was also Lord Chancellor of Scotland, one of the wealthiest men in the
and had defeated the English 20 years earlier at the
Battle of Haddon Rig,
Corrichie he was defeated by Scots loyal
to Queen Mary, and apparently he died of
after his capture. His son Sir John Gordon, who was also captured
was executed the following day. His cousin John Gordon, 12th Earl of
Sutherland was forfeited and fled to
where he remained until
According to John Knox,
at the Parliament of
and 11 other Earls and Barons of the name Gordon
were forfeited. In
Queen Mary of Scotland restored the Earls of Huntly, Sutherland and
others of the name Gordon who had been forfeited.
Amongst those reported as fighting with distinction was
Sir William Douglas of Glenbervie (afterwards
9th Earl of Angus).
A roughly cut granite
menhir (upright stone) with an inscription cut in relief. The Gaelic
inscription reads: "Cuimhnichibh La Coire Fraoichidh" or "Remember the
day of Corrichie" was erected in 1951. The Battlefield is now mainly
covered by commercial forest.
Battle of Craibstone, on 20 November 1571, related to a feud between
the Forbes and Gordon families, also took place in Justice Mill Lane a locality
not far from the edge of the town in that time.
So called due to its proximity to
Craibstone Croft, the
was won by the
who forced the
into retreat in approximately one hour with the loss of 60 men.
Alexander, 2nd Lord Forbes of Pitsligo was killed at the Battle
Stone, Craibstone, Craib Stone, Craibstane or Crabe
is a boundary stone east of the Hardgate that used to mark out part of Craibstone
The stone has a plaque above it with the inscription as follows:
The Crabstane. Boundary Stone on lands
belonging to John Crab, Baillie of the Burgh in 1314. The stone also marks the
site of the skirmish in 1571 between the rival families of Gordon
and Forbes and
of a later engagement the Battle of Justice Mills in 1644 between the citizens of
Aberdeen and the Royalist forces of the Marquis of Montrose.
Battle of Megray Hill
This indecisive engagement was fought
Stonehaven, where the Royalist troops under
facing stiff Covenanter opposition, declined to advance and retired to nearby
Aberdeen in confusion. On June 18 and 19 Royalist forces defended the
Brig o' Dee,
the main entrance to the SCity from the south, for 2 days against
who at that time was fighting for the
Both sides were unaware that a peace treaty had been signed on
Just north of
Stonehaven on the coast.
the Marquis of Montrose, and his army camped on Kincorth Hill on
the night of 17 June 1639 before the Battle of the Bridge of Dee
the next day, when Covenanting forces under his command attacked Aberdeen. At
the time Aberdeen remained loyal to Charles I and had refused to join the
Covenanters. The following day Montrose led his forces down Kincorth
Hill towards the Bridge of Dee, the gate of which at the Kincorth
side had been closed and fortified to keep Montrose’s forces out. The
Covenanters attacked the bridge, which was defended by parties of men from
Aberdeen for a day and a half before Montrose’s cannons eventually
battered down the town’s fortifications. It could be that Covenanters’ Faulds
takes its name from that association. It has also been suggested that Montrose
later camped there before the Battle of
Justice Mills, on Friday 13 September 1644 (the greatest
slaughter in Aberdeen’s recorded history): however it is known that he crossed
the Dee at the Mill of Crathes the night before and thus Kincorth Hill
did not play a part in that battle.
In 1639, the Town
having, at the instigation of the Marquis of Huntly, taken part with the
King, Montrose and General Leslie came north, and after harassing the
citizens for a time, and reducing Huntly to the necessity of dispersing his
Troops, returned southward. Soon after the Viscount of Aboyne resolved to
publish at Stonehaven a Proclamation, issued by the King, against the
Covenanters, but he was repulsed, and pursued by the 7th Earl Marischal, who,
coming to the Bridge of Dee, found it fortified, but defended by a small number
of men only. These he overpowered, and, coming to Aberdeen, entered it without
Battle of Alford
Marquis of Montrose in attempt to raise the West Highland Clans. The Covenanters
tried to stop them at
(27 miles north west of Aberdeen) but it was a disaster. Caught between the
and high ground, they suffered heavy losses. After many more victories,
Lieutenant Governor of Scotland.