The rise of Robert the Bruce

I have already noted the Livingstons of Drumry supported the English king Edward I. Their Drumchapel neighbours, the Flemings of Garscadden came to the fore in the rise of Bruce. When in February 1306, Robert the Bruce had stabbed the Red Comyn in the Greyfriars kirk at Dumfries - in legend finished off by a Kirkpatrick ("I'll mak siccar") - one Robert Fleming, the son of Malcolm Fleming of Garscadden, lifted the dead man's head and exclaimed "Let the deed shaw!". Although much doubt has been expressed about the veracity of these legends, it is interesting to note that both exclaimations have become mottos of their respective clans - so perhaps these events did take place.

The murdering of his main rival prompted Bruce to grasp the nettle. Acting quickly, he made his way to Scone where on Lady Day (March 25th) he was crowned King of Scots. After this Bruce spent some time in Glasgow where Bishop Wishart gave him full absolution for his sins. Bruce then travelled to Dumbarton, doubtless via the Fleming's Garscadden, in an attempt to take Dumbarton Castle, held by Sir John Stewart of Menteith. I.M.M. McPhail's Lennox Lore notes this story concerning Bruce in the Lennox: "According to Bower, Mentieth had offered to surrender the Castle in return for the confirmation of the grant of the Earldom of Lennox bestowed on him by Edward I of England. Bruce was stopped in the wood of Colquhoun about a mile from the castle by 'a certain carpenter called Roland', who warned him that Mentieth had concealed some of his men in a 'hole-cellar' and that these men at a given signal would spring out and capture Bruce and his men. Armed with this information, Bruce proceeded to the castle and forced Mentieth to show him the 'hole-cellar' and the hidden band. Mentieth was pardoned and a reconciliation was effected."

Bruce's luck continued with the death of Edward I in 1307. His successor and son, Edward II, lacked his father's ruthlessness and was less of a match for the Scottish king. Even so, Bruce and his followers were clearly still underdogs in their struggle, but their persistance began to reap rewards. It was around this time that the English burned down Paisley Abbey under the command of Edward II's Governer of Scotland, Aymer de Valence. Yet, in less than three years later, Robert the Bruce had secured Strathclyde under his control.

Renfrewshire Local History Forum's Wallace, Renfrewshire and the Wars of Independence notes: "The English garrisons at Rutherglen, Dumbarton, and Ayr seem to have been ousted by the Scots between 1308 and 1310, and it is likely that Inverkip would have been recaptured during the same period. With his limited resources, King Robert kept to his earlier policy of neutralising areas by destroying local castles rather than occupying them, so these Scottish victories probably had the effect of removing Clydeside from the war." It would have also been around this time that the Livingston held estate of Drumry would have been neutralised, and the English influence at the Kilpatrick Church ended. It may not have been such a difficult transition for the Drumry Livingstons as they were looked over for when Hesilrig was appointed Sheriff of Lanark years earlier by Edward Longshanks. Still, with their relations in Linlithgow and Livingston remaining on the side of the English king, they were probably playing a dangerous political game of wait-and-see, in a forced neutrality determined by their location.

Yet Linlithgow and Livingston would also fall to Bruce. L.G.M.G's Life of King Robert Bruce relates this story: "Bruce's spirit had infused itself into all classes. High and low, rich and poor, were all animated by an ardent and patriotic desire to recover the liberty and independence of their country, and to drive out the invaders. A farmer of the name of Binnock, encouraged by the success of his countrymen against the English, resolved upon the bold attempt of taking the castle of Linlithgow. Binnock, who was a brave and stout man, was in the habit of supplying the castle with hay; and one morning he succeeded in bringing within the gates eight men concealed in the cart among the hay. Having stopped the cart under the heavy portcullis gate, he stabbed the porter, and summoned his followers, who were lying in ambush. They rushed in, and the castle was easily taken." In 1312 Livingston was still in the hands of the Sir Archibald Livingston, an adherent to the English cause, who in the same year garrisoned the Peel for the expected attack.

In King Robert's parliament at St. Andrews on March 1309, it is notable that only three Earls attended personally:- Lennox, Ross and Sutherland. Again we see that the Earl of Lennox was a adherent of Bruce, but also reflects on the strange remoteness of the Lennox region. All the other earldoms sent representatives, with the exception of Dunbar which was still under English control.

It would be around this time that Walter Bedewynde would be replaced as Minister for the Kilpatrick parish. In 1316, we find the new minister Sir Patrick Floker being appointed Master of Polmadie hospital and receiving dispensation from residence in the parish.

By 1313 Bruce and his followers had successfully captured most of the remaining English-held castles in the country, with the notable exceptions of Stirling and Berwick. Even previously strong English garrisons such as Edinburgh and Roxburgh fell to the Scots. Stirling became an exception as King Robert's brother Edward accepted a truce for a year.. if the Castle was not to be relieved by an English garrison it would be handed over to the Scots. This truce meant that it would force Edward II into battle in 1314. As he preferred the element of surprise to be on his side King Robert was doubtless not pleased about forcing the English into a formal battle but he accepted his brother's truce.

The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 is one of the greatest victories of courage against overwhelming odds and a fine example of how tactics are crucial in any fight. The English army, much superior in numbers, was forced onto boggy terrain. Their cavalry proved ineffective against the Scottish schiltroms and their archers were denied adequate space by the Scots. The English were routed and Edward II narrowly escaped with his life. A Knights Templar army may have arrived late to help secure the Scots victory, but it was the courage of the ordinary men of Scotland and their belief in liberty and freedom that gave Robert the Bruce his finest hour.

John Bruce in his History of West or Old Kilpatrick writes "That the church lands of Kilpatrick furnished men who fought under the Earl of Lennox at Bannockburn is evident from the fact that in 1318 Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, admitted that the contingent furnished by the Abbot from the Kilpatrick lands was of free grace and favour."