action at Roslin was typical of combat in this period; a
clash between relatively small groups of men-at-arms
(armoured cavalry), not, as popularly written, a battle
of manoeuvre involving many thousands. The "Big Battle"
scenario was invented by Walter Bower in his
"Scotichronicon" to give the Scots a massive victory
over the English. Contemporary record material is
absolutely clear about this, the English force was
raised in a hurry, possibly (according to Sir Thomas
"Scalacronica") to raise a Scottish siege at
Linlithgow. It was recruited from the gentry and
aristocracy of Northern England and had no infantry
element at all. There is no contemporary material to
suggest that the Scottish army involved infantry either,
but this is typical of the period. There seems to have
been two, possibly three actions, probably a product of
the English force being billeted in a number of villages
and hamlets in the area . Wallace had not been the
Guardian for some years by the time of Roslin and there
is no clear evidence to indicate that he was present at
all. The Guardian was Sir John Comyn of Badenoch, who
had held the post (with Robert de Bruce some of the
time)since Wallace lost his political credibility after
the defeat at Falkirk. It is an axiom of websites and
romantic history that the Scottish men-at-arms were less
heavily armoured and less well-mounted than their
English counterparts – a ‘fact’ that no-one noticed at
the time. In fact they were indistinguishable from one
another. The same applies to archers and spearmen; the
total evidence for Scots using a shortbow is that c.
Sir Charles Oman said they did – he did produce any
evidence to support his statement , but we should be
confident that if there were any differences between
Scottish and English soldiers Grey, the
Lanercost Chronicle would tell us so – especially
Gray since he was a professional soldier all his days.
Also – record material – payrolls, muster rolls,
ammunition records and the like would surely make
reference to any real disparity.
As for the Roslin battle, if it had been a physically
large battle, we can rest assured that chroniclers and
record material of the time would say so, but the size
of a battle (especially a medieval one) is not a useful
guide to its significance.
The Battle of Culblean (30th November, St Andrew's
Day, 1335) was not especially large (perhaps 4,000
people in total), but what 14th century Scottish battle
is of greater significance? Bannockburn merely affirmed
the current situation, viz. The Scots were winning their
war and continued to do so until the peace of 1328, but
Culblean was a demonstration of the ability of the Scots
to recover and make serious progress in a very difficult
Chris Brown, author of
"William Wallace", ISBN 0752434322
1. Grey wis the
dawnin' ower Rosewell,
When the Englishmen were roosin,
Gay wis Sir Simon Fraser's yell,
"Castail Dhuni" echoed eight thoosan',
2. Ten thoosan' English, eight thoosan' Scot,
The prior's prayers were spoken,
Ane fiery charge such terror wrought,
That the English lines were broken.
3. But ballad writers stay your pen...
This was no sporting battle,
Sir Simon chased after the fleeing men,
And cut them down like cattle.
4. The Fraser, the Colmun and St. Clair,
Wer'na men tae slaughter,
But they faced twenty thoosan' English mair,
So they derna gie them quarter.
An Farmers tae this verra day,
When they're at the ploo-in',
Still find shinbanes in the clay,
At a place they ca' "The Hewin."
5. Ten thoosan' cam' fae Rosewell Dyke,
Wi' General Randolf leadin',
Again the spears o'ercame the pike,
But mony gude Scots lay bleedin'.
6. Sudden an army cam' up on the fight,
And the Scots were like to flee,
Prior Abernethy begged them tae fight,
But no man heard his plea.
7. Look ower, look ower, on yonder hill,"
Quo' Sir Simon lood and clear,
They blick't and saw the lift gae ill,
Then saw a cross appear.
8. 'Tis gude St. Andrew," cried ae man,
And doon they gaed tae pray,
"Gae to," they heard the gude Sir Simon,
"Gae to, we'll win the day."
9. They ca'd the cross hill "Abernethy,"
Where they layed the Prior's banes,
But soon they renamed it "Carnethy,"
Fae a' the pilgrim's stanes.
10. We mind the twa Frasers, o' Colmyn tae,
And o' the true St. Clair,
First tae the fecht, the Graham gay,
Dark Douglas tae wis there.
11. But wha made the cross fae the blasted tree,
That gied the Scots such solace?
Ma freens, ye surely needna ask me,
It was Sir William Wallace
Battle of Roslin
The Memorial was erected by the Roslin Heritage
Society in 1994.
The Battle of Roslin -
The Battle of Rosslyn, 1303
Overview of Roslin Battlefield
Battle of Roslin:: OS grid NT2763 :: Geograph British
Isles - photograph every grid square!
Roslin, Midlothian [Streetmap.co.uk]
Roslin Heritage Society - Projects
Clan Cumming Society of the United States