Blood Stained Fields - The Battlefields of East Lothian, Arran Paul Johnston

Blood Stained Fields - The Battlefields of East Lothian, Arran Paul Johnston

The area of East Lothian saw some of the most important battles in Scottish history, and was the location of key clashes over at least a thousand years. During that period it went from being the home of the Votadini (better known as the post-Roman Gododdin, spent two centuries as part of Northumberland and then became part of the expanding kingdom of Scotland. For three centuries, from the Wars of Independence to the end of the 'Rough Wooing' the area was exposed to attack because of its position on the eastern invasion route from England - armies advancing on this route would reach East Lothian after crossing the Lammermuir Hills, on their way to Edinburgh and Stirling, while its ports were important to any army being supplied from the sea. Later, during the Jacobite revolts the area was important because of its proximity to Edinburgh.

This book covers almost two thousand years of history, although most detail is focused on the thousand years between Athelstaneford and the Jacobite revolts. We start with a look at Roman East Lothian, when the area was right on the Roman frontier (normally, but not always, north of the formal border, but always within the Roman sphere of influence). The period of Northumbrian rule is represented by the Battle of Athelstaneford when a raiding Scottish army defeated local Northumbrian troops at a battle that gave Scotland the Saltire. The Wars of Independence are represented by the First Battle of Dunbar, a major Scottish defeat, and by the Burnt Candlemas, a failed attempt to intimidate the Scots close to the end of the wars.

The largest section looks as the Tudor period, where relations with Scotland were poisoned by the inept 'Rough Wooing', which saw English armies attempt to impose a marriage agreement on the Scots. Despite winning several major victories this military diplomacy was doomed from the start, and only drove the young Princess Mary into a French marriage. The section ends with her later defeat at Carberry Hill, a confrontation rather a battle, but one that saw Mary, by then Mary Queen of Scots, captured by her enemies.

The area saw fighting during the Civil War, when Cromwill won one of his most important battles at Dunbar. The Jacobite period is represented by some of the earlier attempts to defy the Hanoverians, including a long siege of Bass Castle, and by the major Jacobite victory at Prestonpans early in the '45. The later tide of defeat took the action further north, and ended the area's position on the front line. The final chapter looks at the Tranent Massacre of 1797, part of more widespread if short-lived discontent with a militia act and the area's role in the two World Wars.

This is an excellent example of local history with wider implications. The battle accounts are clear and unbiased and Scottish defeats are given the same level of detail as Scottish victories. The set-piece battle narratives are supported by good accounts of the wider campaigns that led to the major clashes, as well as the many sieges and smaller skirmishes fought in the area.

I - The Northern Frontier
Votadini & Gododdin
The Battle of Athelstaneford 832

II - Forging a Nation
The First Battle of Dunbar 1296
The Burnt Candlemas 1356

III - The Rough Way of Wooing
Destruction of Edinburgh 1544
The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh 1547
The Siege of Haddington 1548
The Battle of Carberry Hill 1567

IV The Great Civil War
The Second Battle of Dunbar 1650
Mossers in East Lothian

V - The Return of the Stuarts
The Whitekirk Conventicle 1678
The Siege of Bass Castle 1691
Seton Palace & The 'Fifteen
The Battle of Prestonpans, 1745

VI - A New World
The Tranent Massacre 1797

Author: Arran Paul Johnston
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 205
Publisher: Prestoungrange & Cuthill Press
Year: 2013

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