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  • Highland Gladiators December 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

    If Beachcombing had another ten years to add to his natural lifespan he would study duels: there is enough bizarre material there for at least a decade of honest work. As it is the years pass and there is little time. So he will offer up here, in passing, just one of those many collected and crudely thrown together, a face off between the warriors of two Scottish clans in 1396. The first mention of the battle at Perth is in the rhymed chronicle of Andrew Wyntoun (obit c. 1423) who may even have seen the duel with his own eyes. The account here is based, instead, on the possibly derivative John Fordun.

    In the year of our Lord 1396 a great part of the north of Scotland, beyond the Alps [Moray?], was disturbed by two wretched Caterans [clan warriors] and their follower – namely, Scheabeg and his kinsmen, who are known as the Clankay, and Cristi Jonson with his kin, who are called the Clanquhele. These could not be reconciled by any agreement or treaty, and by no skill of the king or governor could they be reduced to obedience. At length the noble and industrious Sir David of Lindesay of Crawford, and Sir Thomas, Earl of Moray, applied themselves with such diligence and effect that they brought the parties to this mutual agreement that on a certain day they would appear before the King at Perth, and each party choosing thirty of their kindred, they would fight each other, armed only with swords and bows and arrows, and without doublets, or other armour save pole-axes; by this means terminating their contention and restoring peace to the country.

    Imagine sixty clansmen dressed in their kilts, bare-breasted with swords arrows and pole axes. What is more they were to fight to the death before ‘the king and governors and an innumerable assemblage upon the North Inch of Perth! And to the death or almost they fought: ‘they fight one with the other, and as if they were butchers preparing oxen for the market as unconcernedly they slaughter each other in turn. Yet among so many there was not so much as one found who was as if mad or fearful, or, sheltering himself behind the back of his fellow, attempted to escape from such slaughter’. No wonder that of ‘the sixty combatants all were slain save one of the Clankay and eleven of the opposite party’. Interestingly there is a scrabble to claim descent from the victors, the Clanquhele, almost certainly the Clan Chattan. The Clankay though has not been identified and no one is queuing up for the honour to be related to the defeated Scots.

    And what about the one that got away? The sole surviving member of the mysterious Clankay. There is the detail – in Fordun and elsewhere – that one man was so terrified before the battle began that he dived in the Tay and swam away and  ‘he was pursued by thousands, but could nowhere be found’.

    Any other collective duels? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com