Mac B R A V E H E A R T

This illustration, discussion about The Bruce, and ballad 'The Signal of Bruce' is taken from the 'Brodick and Lamlash' chapter of Days at the Coast by Hugh Macdonald. The text is shown exactly as in the book.


Upon a beautifull green terrace, on the northern shoulder of the bay stands Brodick Castle, the insular residence of the Duke of Hamilton, the sole proprietor (bating a few detatched farms) of the island of Arran. The structure, which is principally of modern erection, is in the old baronial style of architecture, with battlemented roofs, and in front is surmounted by a lofty tower, flanked with small turrets, and capt with abrupt and crawstepped gables. Rising considerably above the level of the surrounding woods, this portion of the Castle forms a fine feature in the landscape of the bay, and from the interior must command a prospect of great extent and beauty. From an almost prehistoric period, this spot has been the site of a castellated building. It is believed, indeed, that there was a fort here during the period when the island was under the Norwegian sway; and, subsequently, it is known that the Macdonalds of the Isles held the Castle of Brodick as one of their princely residences. During the wars of Bruce and Baliol, when the ambitious Edward of England laid a lawless hand upon the sceptre of Caledonia, the island of Arran fell into the posession of the southern invaders, who, in 1306, held the Castle of Brodick under the governorship of Sir J. Hastings. Their tenancy, however, seems to have been of short duration. James Lord Douglas, who had accompanied the Bruce into exile at Rachrin, on the coast of Ireland, soon got tired of the kind of life which his royal master was living there, and returned with Sir Robert Boyd and a few friends privately to Arran. Taking up residence in a spacious cave, which is still to be seen on the sequestered shore at Drumidoon, he remained for several months in concealment, watching an opportunity of pouncing upon the unsuspicious Englishers. At one time they succeeded in intercepting a supply of arms and provisions for the garrison, and by a stratagem nearly effected an entrance into the Castle itself. Wearied of his obscure existence at Rachrin, Bruce also joined the party a few months afterwards. His visit was not anticipated, and the outlaws were alarmed for their safety when they saw him approach with his followers. A few notes from the king's horn set their minds at rest, however, as we learn from the poem of old Barbour, who has so lustily sung the praises of his royal master. We borrow the passage:-

"The king then blew his horn inbye,
And gart his men that were him by
Hold them still in privitie;
And syne again his horn blew he.
James of Douglas heard him blow,
And well the blast soon can he know;
And said, 'Surely yon is the king,
I ken him well by his blowing.'
Third time therewith also he blew,
And then Sir Robert Boyd him knew,
And said, 'Yon is the king bot dreed;
Come, we will forth to him, good speed."

For months the Bruce remained a denizen at the "King's Cave," which is the name the place has bourne ever since. Our own leisure will not permit us, in the meantime, to visit this hallowed spot, but our readers will be obliged to us, we have no doubt, for the following description of it, from the pen of the late Dr. Landsborough, minister of the parish of Stevenston, in Ayrshire, a gentleman who was familiar with every mountain, glen, and bay in Arran, and who in his day did more to elucidate its natural phenomena, animate and inanimate, than any other writer. The good old clergyman, in his Excursions to Arran, says, "The King Cove was not only the refuge and residence of Robert the Bruce when a price was set upon his head by the ambitious King of England, but tradition tells, with what truth I wot not, that it was often the residence of Fingal, with his heroic followers, when they resorted to the island of Arran, their favourite hunting-ground. The cave is scooped out of fine-grained white sandstone. It is 114 feet long, 44 broad, and nearly 50 in height. The strata dipping down on each side, give the roof the appearance of a gothic arch. They who are very clear-sighted, tell us of broadswords and hunting scenes engraven on the walls by the arrow or spear point, it may be, of a Fingalian or Brucian lithographer; but as it required more imagination than i possessed to decipher these antique engravings, I shall not attampt to describe them. Trap-dikes pierce the sandstone cliffs around the cave, and they are also intermingled with masses of claystone porphory, and of green-coloured pitchstone. Besides this one, there are several adjoining caves, almost as large, but of less interest, as they are only the king's kitchen, the king's cellar, and the king's stable. Everything is interesting in the history of a patriotic king, whether in prosperity or adversity; and it was not without some emotion that I entered the cave that had often been trodden by Robert the Bruce." "On the cliffs of the cave may be found, as a very appropriate adornment of a royal residence, osmunda regalis, the royal fern; and in some places of Arran it may well be called a royal plant, for it has been found eleven and a-half feet in length."

The osmunda regalis may be a very fine study for the modern botanist, and the trap-dikes, &c., for an enthusiastic student of stratification, but we have no doubt that Bruce and his mates in misfortune found very little consolation in scanning the scientific features of their dreary subterranean abode. The good old king, however, may be considered an entomologist in a certain sense. It was about this time, we are told, that he watched with eager interest the motions of a spider, and learned, from its success, a lesson of hope and perseverance. Trying to fix its tiny rope-ladder upon a beam, the litle insect attracted the attention of the king, who was, at the moment, in a state of despondency. Many times he had failed in his endeavours, and at last he began to think that all was lost. The spider, as he observed its proceedings, tried again and again to achieve its object, and again and again its efforts were in vain. Still it persevered, and at length its industry was crowned with success. The moral touched "the concience of the king." To his mind the success of the pertinacious spider seemed an omen of his own ultimate success, and, with renewed energy and vigour, he resolved to grapple once more with what had seemed an adverse destiny. His first known achievement afterwards was the taking of Brodick Castle. In what manner this was accomplished we can neither learn from history nor tradition; but that he actually became possessed of Brodick is a well-known fact. It was here that he definitely formed the design of making another attempt to regain his crown, and to re-establish the independence of his country. Rumours of popular discontent under the sway of the ambitious Edward and his myrmidons came to his ear from time to time, and ultimately he resolved to send a trusty messenger across the Frith to learn how the tide of feeling went. If there was any hope, a beacon was to be lighted on the Carrick shore; if Scotland had really succumbed to his foreign sway, then all was to remain in darkness. Let us follow the messenger of Bruce in a ballad that has just fallen into our hands, and which, we believe, has hitherto escaped the notice of those who have gleaned the fields of ancient minstrelsy. It is, we understand, "entitled and called"


"What news, what news, thou Carrick carle,
Sae lynart, leal, and true?
For weel I like thy hameart face,
Thy kindly e'e o' blue.

"A wand'rer lang frae freens and hame,
I seek my faither's ha',
And fain wad ken gin weel or wae,
Has been auld Scotia's fa'."

"There's dool and wae o'er Scotland wide"
(The carle said, sighing sair);
"Brave men in sorrow hang their heads,
And maidens smile nae mair.

"The vera bairns upon the green
Hae tint their daffin glee,
And mithers look on sweet wee babes,
Wi' dim and drumly e'e.

"For the wecht o' Southern tyranny
Lies heavy on the land;
While Freedom's fire has paled its licht,
And Hope's red cheek has wann'd.

"Oh that the Bruce once mair wad rise,
Our ain true hearted king!
Aye foremost in the face o' death,
Aye last to leave the ring.

"We a' hae dree'd the tyrant's weird,
we a' hae pree'd its ga';
And yearn to steep our wrangs in bluid,
Or for the richt to fa'.

"Ae glance but of his eagle e'e,
Ae flash but of his sword,
And babes unborn wad leap for joy
O'er liberty restored.

"Yestreen I dreamed a blessed dream-
I thought the Bruce was here,
Wi' twice ten thousand gallant blades,
Stern glittering round his spear.

"I thought the soul o' Wallace wight
Burned in ten thousand eyes,
While quivering banners heaved and fell
In a storm of battle cries.

"I thought I saw the bristling front
Of hostile armies met,
The clash of conflict wild and keen,
The greensward reeking wet.

"The bluidy gaps of death I saw,
The pallid rush of fear,
And 'Scotland, Scotland, has the day!'
Rang in my wak'ning ear."

"Thanks for thy dream, thy leal auld man,
God's help, it shall be true;
Lend me thy honest hand while I
My message tell to you.

"This morn at dawn, the Bruce I left
On Arran's stormy shore,
A lion fretting in the toils,
And all athirst for gore.

"Go forth my trusty Boyd, he said,
Try thou thy country's heart;
If true its beat, my rusted blade
Soon from its sheath shall start.

"And if, as by the rood I hope,
Thou learnest aught of cheer,
One blazing faggot on the cliff
Shall send thy message here.

. . . . . .

When day gaed doon ower Goatfell grim,
And darkness mantled a',
A kingly form strode to and fro,
On Brodick's Castle wa'.

And aye he gazed ayont the Frith,
Where blasts were roarin' snell,
And aft he leaned upon his sword,
Sad, muttering to himsel'.

"In vain, in vain,"at length he cried,
And hung his head in woe-
When, streaming far through storm and gloom,
He saw the beacon glow.

O'er many a wave the red light glanced,
O'er many a crest of foam,-
The sea-bird's wing seem'd stained wi' bluid
Above its ocean home.

With faulded hands the monarch knelt
Unto a mightier King
One moment, and the next his horn
Gart a' the echoes ring.

Swift, at the call a gallant band
Of Scotland's exiled brave
Came rushing, eager, to the tryst
Beside the lashing wave.

'For weal or woe,"outspoke the Bruce,
"I sail for Scotia's shore;
With God's good aid, and yours, brave hearts,
To win my crown once more.

"Here, in the face of Heaven, I draw
The sword that knows no sheath
Till Scotland stands erect and free,
Or I'm laid low in death."

Oh! weel micht England rue that nicht,
Sair cause had she to mourn,
For the licht that gleaned o'er the Frith sae red
Was the dawn of Bannockburn.

During the subsequent war of Scottish independence, Bruce was assisted in his endeavours by many of the Arran people; and when he ultimately regained the crown, he bestowed in gratitude considerable grants of land and other privileges upon those who had thus served him, or who had previously helped him in his adversity. Most of the little heritages thus obtained have passed in the lapse of time from the descendants of those whom they were conferred; but in one instance, at least, the reverse is the case. Mr. Fullarton of Kilmichael (a beautiful little estate in Glenloy), is the lineal descendant of Fergus MacLouis, or Fullarton, who originally received the lands of Kilmichael for services rendered to Bruce when he was concealed in the island. The original charter, which is still extant, is of date, Arnele, Nov. 26th, 1307. For upwards of five hundred years the reward of Bruce has thus remained in the posession of the Fullartons.

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