The Jardine Clan

 Part 2

This is an address delivered by an Elliot to members of the Jardine Clan but the sentiments expressed could equally apply to many other Border People more especially to the Border reiving clans and families. 

by Sir Arthur Elliot of Stobbs, Bt. 21st September, 1980

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Do you remember those famous lines of Rudyard Kipling describing the typical English attitude toward their own soldiers - or "Tommies" as they were called?

"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck. him out the brute"

But it's 'Saviour of 'is country', when the guns begin to shoot."

I quote these lines because, rather the same sort of attitude prevailed in Scotland, in the 16th Century toward the Border Clans. During periods of peace between England and Scotland or when it did not suit political policy, the Clans were regarded as the worst sort of rogues and brigands and the most ruthless measures were often taken against them by their own sovereign.  

This attitude was particularly evident after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 when the old frontier between the two countries was abolished and the military value of the Clans could be dispensed with. Thus the Earl of-Dunbar, who had been appointed as the King's Commissioner for the Borders, is described in Privy Council records as having "caused to be hanged 140 of the nimblest and most powerful Thieves in all the Borders" and by 1609 was said to have "purged the Borders of all malefactors, robbers and brigands as were wont to triumph there", and in particular "to have cut off by the sword of justice sundry Douglases, Jardines, Armstrongs, Beatiesons and others of great name and lustre." 

Yet these same Jardines had stood in a very different light in time of-war. Indeed, as the nearest approach to a professional army that existed in those days, the Border Clans were relied on to rally to their sovereign and their country - which they always did in generous measure. In fact, Borderers usually made up the main body of any Scottish army.

I would like, therefore, to look at this other side of the coin, so to speak, and outline briefly the most important - important in its consequences that is - of all the many Border battles fought between Scots and English, I refer of course to the Battle of Flodden fought on 9th September 1513. Un­fortunately, I cannot tell you how many Jardines took part in the Battle. Only the nobles and a few of the leading men - and except for Lord Johnstone and Scott of Buccleuch only those who were killed - were ever listed - 93 names out of an army of 35,000 - of which Lord Maxwell and my own ancestor, Robert Elliot, were two. All we can be sure of is that the South of Scotland made up a large part of the army and that a detachment of Jardines would almost certainly have been there.

Though we may lack precise details, it is certainly true to say that no event in the whole history of Scotland made a deeper or more lasting impression on the minds of the people than the Battle of Flodden. Jean Elliot's haunting lines of "The Flowers of the Forest" written 250 years later, expressed then and express today the feelings and sentiments of generation after generation of Scottish people. 

Sir Walter Scott had a story to illustrate this long memory; when travelling in this district of Northumberland, he met a Scottish doctor whom he had previously known as a blacksmith. On asking him how he had succeeded without any medical knowledge, the ex-blacksmith answered that he

relied on two medicines -calomel and laudanum.  "But surely", said Scott in astonishment, "you must kill the greater part of your patients with such treatment." "Oh aye", replied the so-called doctor, "I kill a good few, but it'll take an awfu' lot to make up for Flodden."

Ladies and Gentlemen, we don't want just to grieve over "old, unhappy far-off things and battles long ago" - like the Highland loss in Wordsworth's poem but it really isn't possible to explain the importance of Flodden without emphasizing its catastrophic nature.

This clearly had little to do with the immediate military or strategic results of the battle, which were mainly negative - simply the failure of the Scots to divert Henry VIII from his attack on France, their ancient ally. Nor was a pitched battle with the English - or even a defeat by them - anything unusual. The whole history of the English-Scottish frontier was written in blood and, on the face of it, Flodden was just another of those Border battles which had been fought in nearly every generation for 200 years - Halidon Hill, Neville's Cross, Otterburn, Homildon Hill, not to mention many other forays and encounters.

So what particularly distinguished Flodden from other pitched battles between Scots and English?

As we all know, Flodden was a disaster, not through defeat itself -even the English Commander, the Earl of Surrey, remained doubtful of the issue until the next day while Lord Home with Huntly's division on the left wing had been entirely successful in their attack, had taken a number of prisoners and had remained intact to cover the Scottish army's retreat afterwards - the disaster lay in the loss of so many of the leaders of the nation and of its best and bravest sons.

The government of the country was, virtually wiped out, leaving old men and infants as heads of state. In my own district of Liddesdale the death of the then Earl of Bothwell left all in confusion, justice courts abandoned and the Borders generally fallen into what was described as "in great ruyne and out of all good order." There was scarcely a single family in the land that did not mourn the death of one of its number. It is said that, of the 80 men who marched out from Selkirk, only one returned. Some 10,000 men, more than a quarter of the army, were left dead on the field. Seeing that the whole population of Scotland was no larger than Edinburgh today, the size of the catastrophe can be better understood if this figure is translated into modern terms - equivalent, that is, to the loss of 100,000 in a single day, a number comparable to the whole of the casualties suffered by Scottish regiments in the four years of the 1914-18-War.

When, in addition, one remembers the crucial importance of the King in the semi-feudal hierachy of the times - he was indeed the lynch-pin of mediaeval society - the extent of the disaster becomes clear. With the death of James IV, perhaps the most able and certainly the most popular of all the nine Stuart Kings who ruled in Britain, the growing prosperity and dawning Renaissance in Scotland was brought to an abrupt halt and the nation thrown back into its old mediaeval anarchy for almost another 100 years.

Historians have been inclined to underrate the importance of Flodden, perhaps because its effects were largely indirect. But I do not myself see how subsequent events in the Borders at least can be understood without referring to this battle and the death of the King and much of the nobility. The power and independence of the Border Clans or surnames, the raiding and reiving which is today so much a part of our heritage, trace their beginnings to this battle and to the anarchy and misgovernment that followed it. If, added to the disorder and confusion, you consider the confidence which this victory gave to Henry VIII in his plans to reduce Scotland to a vassal state and make himself its master, the subsequent history of the Borders becomes clearer.

We look back on Flodden today from a distance in time of more than 450 years, long after the fighting is ended, the old wounds healed and England and Scotland have joined together as a united kingdom for several centuries. Yet I believe it right, particularly on an occasion like this, to recall our heritage and pay tribute to the courage and hardihood of our ancestors. The Border Clans were no mere cattle thieves, as some would have it. On the contrary, it was largely due to the Jardines, the Elliots and the other Clans and surnames in the South of Scotland, with their ferocious desire for independence, that preserved the culture and identity of Scotland from outside domination for three centuries up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603. My own Clan's slogan of "Wha daur meddle wi' me" could apply equally well to the Jardines and all the rest of us in this part of Scotland.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I make no apology for dwelling in my talk today on one of the more heroic aspects of our history. More than enough has been said on the other side and this is an occasion for pride and celebration. May I simply say what a great pleasure it is to be invited to attend your Gathering and how glad I am of the opportunity of paying a tribute to your Chief, Sir William Jardine, and to all Members of this great - this very great - Clan. 


Flowers 0' The Forest

It is said that in Scotland, Flodden is still a pain in the heart.

The "Flowers 0' The Forest" was written by Jean, daughter of Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto who was Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland in the 19th century, very many years after the battle. The Lament is played on the pipes every year on the date of the battle at the site.

I've heard them lilting at the ewe milking;
Lasses a' lilting, before the dawn of day;
But now they are moaning on lika green loaning;
The flowers of the forest are a wede awae.

We'll hear nae main lilting, at the ewe-milking;
Women and Bairns are heartless and wae,
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning,
The flowers of the forest are a wede awae.



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