history scotland

On February 27th 1545 the Battle of Ancrum Moor took place.

This was a battle during the “Rough Wooing” as King Henry VIII of England tried to persuade the Scots that the 3 year old Mary Queen of Scots to marry his son. The decisive Scottish victory would put a temporary end to English incursions into the Scottish border and lowlands.  After failed negotiation with the Scottish king, in October 1542 Henry VIII sent an English army some 20,000 into Scotland, where they burnt Kelso and Roxburgh. In reply, James V of Scotland raised an army of some 18,000 troops in the west and headed for Carlisle, but was defeated in November at Solway Moss by a much smaller English force. After the death of James V, Henry aimed to unify the two kingdoms by seeking the marriage of the then, one year old Scottish Queen Mary to his own son, Prince Edward. When his proposals failed he pursued the matter through force of arms - the so called ‘rough wooing’.

As part of this campaign, in February 1545 two of Henry’s northern commanders, Euer and Laiton, again crossed the border,. Their army of around 5000 plundered Melrose town and burn down the abbey, then returned towards Jedburgh. In response the Earl of Angus raised local forces. At first outnumbered, he manoeuvred but would not engage the invaders.  Once joined by other forces, including the Earl of Arran, he had more than 2000 troops. The Scots now considered their army strong enough to act and at Ancrum Moor they totally defeated the far larger English army.

The photo shows Lilliards Stone, or Lady Lilliards Stone, as it is sometimes called it marks where the battle took place and also commemorates a Teviotdale girl name Lilliard who to avenge the death of her lover slain by the Earl of Hereford’s English troops at an earlier point took part in the Battle of Ancrum Moor until she fell with many wounds.


Knap of Howar, Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Knap of Howar on the island of Papa Westray is a Neolithic farmstead which may be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe. Radiocarbon dating shows that it was occupied from 3700 BC to 2800 BC, earlier than the similar houses in the settlement at Skara Brae on the Orkney Mainland.The farmstead consists of two adjacent rounded rectangular thick-walled buildings with very low doorways facing the sea. The larger and older structure is linked by a low passageway to the other building, which has been interpreted as a workshop or a second house. Though they now stand close to the shore, they would have originally lain inland. The stone furniture is intact giving a vivid impression of life in the house. Items found in middens (refuse heaps) show that the inhabitants were keeping cattle, sheep and pigs, cultivating barley and wheat and gathering shellfish as well as fishing for species which have to be line caught using boats. Finds of finely-made and decorated Unstan ware pottery link the inhabitants to chambered cairn tombs nearby and to sites far afield including Balbridie and Eilean Domhnuill. The name Howar is believed to be derived from Old Norse word haugr meaning mounds or barrows.

February 27th 1560 saw signing of The Treaty of Berwick. 

Not to be confused with others that were signed at Berwick, this treaty was significant as it marked the end of the Scottish/French Alliance. 

Mary of Guise was the defacto ruler of Scotland, her daughter, Mary was still in France, her regency wasn’t an easy one, with the reformation gathering pace there were many Scots unhappy that a catholic woman, with the help of a large contingent of French troops was in charge. 

Queen Elizabeth made the Treaty of Berwick with the Scottish nobles opposed to French government, and in March sent troops. 

For the first time in history, Englishmen and Scotsmen fought side by side rather than against one another. when Elizabeth sent an English land army into Scotland to join their Scottish allies in besieging the French at Leith. The treaty also promised that Scots would be sent to help stop any invasion of England by France. 

A further treaty was drawn up in July that saw the withdrawal of French troops from Leith. Mary died soon after this and it would be 18 months before the Queen would return to Scotland, after her the death of her husband Francis II.

On November 19th 1869 a riot broke out at Surgeons Hall Edinburgh.

Sophia Jex-Blake, Isabel Thorne, Edith Pechey, Matilda Chaplin, Helen Evans, Mary Anderson, and Emily Bovell were studying medicine at Edinburgh University, at a time when most of the establishment considered the idea of women undergraduates, let alone doctors, preposterous. 

Several hundred male students pelted the women with mud and rubbish as they arrived. The women struggled through the crowd until a supporter unbolted a door to hurry them inside. The rioters shoved a live sheep, used by the medical faculty, into the exam hall, causing further chaos. Jex-Blake was later sued by a student, Mr Craig, who she claimed was at the root of the riot, but she defended his claim. The court awarded him one farthing instead of the £1,000 he sought in damages and the case was seen as a victory for the Edinburgh Seven. Public support for the women started to grow with a report in The Scotsman urging “all…men…to come forward and express… their detestation of the proceedings which have characterised and dishonoured the opposition to ladies pursuing the study of medicine in Edinburgh.”

The decision to allow them to study was later overturned on an appeal by Claud Muirhead, Senior Assistant Physician at the Royal Infirmary, supported by around 200 students. Unable to graduate, the battle moved to London. Jex-Blake was instrumental is setting up the London School of Medicine for Women. In 1876, the Enabling Bill gave medical examining bodies the right to admit women. Jex-Blake and Pechey did their MD in Berne, Switzerland, then sat the Irish exams with the College of Physicians in Dublin, finally becoming registered doctors in Britain. In 1877, Jex-Blake opened Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women and Edinburgh Hospital and Dispensary for Women the following year.

A plaque marking the work of the Edinburgh Seven was unveiled last year and now hangs in Surgeon’s Hall. The date differs on sources. 


Ackergill Tower, Wick, Scotland

The lands where the tower stands belonged to the Cheyne family until 1354 when it passed by marriage to the Keiths, the Earls of Marshall who probably built the castle in the late 14th or early 15th century. The tower appears to have been in the possession of the Sinclair Earls of Caithness in the early 17th century, and to have been garrisoned by Cromwellian troops in 1651. By 1726 it had come into the possession of the Dunbars of Hempriggs by whom it is still owned. The property is currently a hotel.

A legend from the 15th century relates the tale of a young woman by the name of Helen Gunn, who was abducted by John Keith for her beauty. She flung herself, or fell, from the highest tower of Ackergill to escape her abductor’s advances. Supposedly her ghost is still seen, wearing a long red gown and a tall head of black hair. This is said to have been the true beginning for all feuding between the Gunns and the Keiths. It led to the Battle of Champions in either 1478 or 1464, a judicial combat which led to a massacre of the Gunns by the Keiths at the chapel of St Tear (or Tayre) just east of the village.