On this day 1335: Scots defeat English army at Battle of Boroughmuir in Edinburgh

Historic battle was fought in the middle of what is now an upmarket Capital suburb

Centuries before the construction of the upmarket enclave’s now ubiquitous bay-windowed tenements and spacious villas, a bloody battle was waged between several hundred men – and at least one woman - representing Scotland and England on the Boroughmuir to the south of Edinburgh.

Fought on July 30, 1335, the Battle of Boroughmuir saw a body of Scots led by the Earl of Moray defeat an English force en route to join Edward III and his army at Perth. The English king had invaded two years earlier, marking the start of the Second War of Scottish Independence.

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Fronted by Guy, Count of Namur, the English, bolstered by a considerable body of foreign troops from the Flanders region of Belgium, had marched up from Berwick expecting to bypass Edinburgh minus any drama, but it was not to be.

Upon engaging Moray’s men at Boroughmuir, which was long a mustering point for Scots armies – most famously before the fateful Battle of Flodden in 1513 – the English are said to have fought bravely. It is written that they would have had the Scots defeated if not for the arrival of reinforcements led by William Douglas.

‘A man of incredible strength’

In the Martial Achievements of the Scottish Nation (1711), Patrick Abercromby records that the Namurois, when defeated by the Scots at Boroughmuir retreated into Edinburgh, where they entered further conflict, particularly as they entered St Mary’s Wynd near the Netherbow Port.

Citing a 14th century account that recorded the valorous efforts of one particularly formidable Scots fighter, Abercromby wrote: “Here (St Mary’s Wynd) a Scots knight, Sir David Annand, a man of incredible strength and no less courage, having received a wound from one of the enemy, was thereby so much exasperated, that, at once exerting all the vigour of his unwearied arms, he gave his adversary such a blow with an axe, that the sharp and ponderous weapon clave both man and horse, and falling with irresistible force to the ground, made a lasting impression upon the very stones of the street.

The Scots and English waged battle against one another at Boroughmuir in 1335.

"This story may seem a little too romantic, and I would not have related it had I not cited a very good voucher, John de Fordoun, who flourished in 1360, not long after it happened.”

Refuge at Edinburgh Castle

The Count of Namur’s troops dispersed across the city, some fleeing towards the countryside to the south of Edinburgh.

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However, a sizeable number, the Count included, took refuge at Edinburgh Castle, which had lain in ruin since 1315 when Robert the Bruce ordered its to be destroyed to prevent its re-occupation by the English.

Battered, bloodied and desperate, the Count ordered all his horses to be slaughtered and used their carcasses to fill the gaps in the castle’s broken defences.

Besieged by the Scots, the Count of Namur and his Anglo-Flemish army survived a day before “hunger and thirst compelled him to capitulate”.

The victorious Earl of Moray sent the Count and his band of followers on their way, on the proviso that never again would they bear arms against the ruling David II in Scotland.

A female fighter

In the aftermath of the battle, it was discovered that at least one English combatant was a woman. The soldier had engaged with a Scot named Richard Shaw, with the two fighters felled by one another’s spears. Upon stripping the Flemish fighter of the armour, the “gallant stranger” turned out to be a woman.

Centuries later, in 1867, a great quantity of human remains, said to date from the conflict, were discovered around 5 feet below the surface of Glengyle Terrace on the northern verge of the Boroughmuir. The remains were reburied by the Town Council.

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