History is an interesting subject, which is ever-fluid in its presentation. This is because although much information has been lost, more is continually being uncovered. The difficulty is deciding what is true.
Today’s blog covers the Lochmabenstone. To try to explain the difference between fact and fiction, here are two statements regarding the stone. Both claim to be factual, but only one is accurate, the other is based on myth and legend:
- The Lochmabenstone was the historical Anglo-Scottish meeting point of the commissioners or wardens from the English and Scottish West March for the administration of justice;
- The Lochmabenstone was the stone from which King Arthur of legend pulled the sword Excalibur.
For most people, a little research and common sense would quite quickly nullify one and highlight the other.
The granite stone itself is over 7 feet high and is also known as the Clochmabenstane. It is a scheduled monument located in Southern Annandale on the Scottish side of the Border, close to England. It can be found near to the town of Gretna, in close proximity to Old Graitney farmhouse. Standing in a field a mile west of the river Sark where the Kirtle Water enters the Solway Firth, the area is also known locally as Stormont. Along with a smaller stone. it is all that is left of a stone circle dating to around 3000 BC.
It is suggested that the stone circle was erected by a cult who worshipped the Celtic God Mabon. According to some historians, Mabon was the patron God of the Kingdom of Rheged from within which the Caer of Rydderch was located.
The stone, therefore, was used as a tribal meeting point and progressively became the place where the English and Scottish Wardens of the West Marches would meet to discuss border business, exchange prisoners and administer justice. Andrew McCulloch’s book describes a meeting, in November 1398, during the Chiefship of Robert Carruthers, 3rd of Mouswald, where Commissioners from both countries met at Lochmabenstone to discuss extending the truce between England and Scotland for another 5 years. It was also stipulated that the Conservators, who were charged with ensuring its observance, should be drawn from both sides. They agreed to meet regularly at either Kirkandrews on the English side or Lochmabenstone itself, to agree on levels of compensation for any breaches, while both sides agreed to punish those responsible. What is interesting for us is, in the list of Scottish Conservators, 5 were Annandale landowners: Sir John Johnston, Sir John Carlyle, Sir William of Castlemilk, Herbert Corry and John Carruthers, possibly of Holmains. Sadly the peace did not last the 5 years.
It was also the scene of a rather famous battle, the Battle of Sark.
Battle of Lochmaben Stane (Battle of Sark)
According to the Auchinleck Chronicle, the Battle of Sark (alternatively known as the Battle of the Lochmaben Stane) occurred on 23 October 1448. The Scottish Army under Sir John Wallace of Craigie, supported by George Douglas, won a resounding victory over the English forces. This was to be the first major victory against the English since the Battle of Otterburn 1388, 60 years earlier, and the final pitched battle during the 100 Years War.
The battle was initiated by Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Cumberland , Warden of the East March, destroying Dunbar in the May of that year and in the June, the English Warden of the West March the Earl of Salisbury, destroying Dumfries. The Scots retaliated by destroying Warkworth and Alnwick in England, which epitomises the tit for tat state of play between Scotland and England during those tumultuous times. The latter led to Henry VI authorising the Percies to respond.
The battle itself occurred when the younger Percy and his father and 6000 men (varying accounts suggest between 14000 and 40000) entered Scotland, camping not far from the Stone itself, in an area that was to turn out to be a tidal waterway between the River Sark and Kirtle Water.
The Earl of Ormonde, Hugh Douglas, gathered 4000 (again some say as high as 12000) men from Annandale and Nithsdale and met the English, mirroring their Battle formation near their encampment. Although outnumbered, the Scots spear-men drove the English forces back and the tidal waters did the rest.
The Scottish casualties recorded vary from as low as 26 to as high as 600, while the English numbers ran from 2000 to 3000, depending on the chronicler. Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, was captured on the day.