The History of Leith

November 13, 2007

The Wrath of Scotland

After the Battle of Sauchieburn which took place near to Bannockburn James III was murdered by a soldier dressed as a priest. The country was in turmoil and James IV was young. However James had made friends with Scotland’s greatest seamen Sir Andrew Wood of Leith which was to be of some importance to the future of Scotland.

Henry the VII of England thinking that he could take advantage of the situation in Scotland sent a fleet North to waste and burn the Lothians and Fife. The king summoned Sir Andrew and explained the problem. He agreed to take on the English with his two ships the “Flower” and the “Yellow Caravel”. This astonished many of the Kings Councillors as there were three times more English Ships.

Accordingly, with a fair wind in February he moved down the Forth and found the plunder laden ships hovering at Dunbar. Sir Andrew immediately cleared for action and within a few hours had defeated the English Ships bringing the surviving ones into Leith as prizes. The Captains were sent to the King and later released as was the custom of the time probably after paying a ransom. Sir Andrew was rewarded with land and at Largo where he was born he was given a licence “To build a castle at Largo with gates of iron”. Parts of the Castle can still be seen today.

It is strange to think that while England boasts of Drake and Raleigh. The Best seamen in the country actually came from or were based in Leith. People remember the Scottish defeat at Flodden in 1513 but it was the Scots who defeated the English at sea and no English seaport was safe from the sea raiders from Leith. I wonder why this fact is generally ignored or forgotten about?

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