The History of Leith

February 14, 2005

Drurys peace

A little way north-westward of Restalrig, midway between the place named Hawkhill and the upper Quarry Holes, near the Easter Road, there occurred on the 16th of June, 1571 a disastrous skirmish, designated the Black Saturday, or Drurys peace,as it was sometimes named, through the alleged treachery of the English ambassador.
Provoked by a bravado on the part of the Earl of Morton, who held Leith, and who came forth with horse and foot to the Hawkhill, the Earl of Huntly, at the head of a body of Queen Marys followers, with a train of guns, issued out of Edinburgh, and halted at the Quarry Holes, where he was visited by Sir William Drury, the ambassador of Queen Elizabeth, who had been with Morton in Leith during the preceding night. His proposed object was an amicable adjustment of differences, to the end that no loss of life should ensue between those who were countrymen, and, in too many instances, relatives and friends. With all the affected zeal of a peacemaker, this gentleman (whose house stood in Drury Lane, of the Strand in London), proposed terms which Huntly deemed satisfactory; but the next point to be considered was, which party should first march off the field. On this, both parties were absurdly obstinate. Huntly maintained that Morton, by an aggressive display, had drawn the Queens troops out of the city; while Morton, on the other hand, charged the Highland Earl with various acts of hostility and insult. Drury eventually got both parties to promise to quit the ground at a given signal, and that signal, he arranged, shall be the throwing lip of my hat.
This was agreed to, and before Drury was half way between the Hawkhill and the ancient quarries, up went his plumed hat, and away wheeled Huntly’s forces, marching for the city by the road that led to the Canongate, without the least suspicion of the treachery of Drury, or Morton, whose soldiers had never left their ground, and who now, rushing across the open fields with shouts charged with the utmost fury the queen’s men, who were retiring with all the imprudent irregularity and confusion which an imaginary security and exultation at having escaped a sanguinary conflict were cal culated to produce.
Thus treacherously attacked, they- were put to flight, and were pursued with cruel and rancorous slaughter to the very gates of the city. The whole road was covered with dead and wounded men, while Lord Home, several gentlemen of high position, and seventy-two private soldiers, a pair of colours, several horses, and two pieces of cannon, were, amid great triumph, marched into Leith in the afternoon.
This was not the only act of treachery of which Sir William Drury was guilty. He swore that he was entirely innocent, and threw the whole blame on Morton; but though an ambassador, so exasperated were the people of Edinburgh against him, that he had afterwards to quit the city under a guard to protect him from the infuriated mob.

Source-Old and New Edinburgh, James Grant 1883

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